Brandy Barnes, cornered by Theodore Kelly Jr.

The Cayman Islands Boxing Association’s first fight night of 2020 punched into action Saturday night at a packed D. Dalmain Ebanks Boxing Gym. The local competitive event featured seven bouts, with boxers from CIBA’s after-school and youth programmes, the Cayman national team and the Strike Cayman gym.

The first bell of the night rung with seasoned Cayman amateur boxer Brandy Barnes standing across the ring from up-and-comer Leah Lajat. The two female boxers went the full six minutes with Lajat having her moments, but it was Barnes who earned the unanimous decision.

From left, Ben Vagniez and Jaydon Robinson during their after-school programme bout.

The second and third bouts featured boxers from the after-school programme. Ben Vagniez beat Jaydon Robinson for a split-decision win. In the next match Joshua Walters beat Alec Lopez, also in a split decision.

Two boxers involved in the CIBA youth-development programme then stepped into the ring. Charlie Lopez Nixon beat Denny Ebanks in a split decision, after a bout worthy to be deemed fight of the night, after the two youngsters went back and fourth for three rounds.

In the fifth bout of the evening, Strike Cayman’s Eric McField took on Julian Robinson. Though the fight was at Robinson’s training grounds, McField came away on the winning side of a very close split decision.

Eccleston on the attack

Next up were Hepseba Angel and Tori Edmonds, with Angel finishing fan-favourite Edmonds by referee stoppage. Hepseba put the pressure on early in the first round, hitting Edmonds with powerful combinations, leading to a standing seven count. By the second round, the ref had seen enough, with Hepseba’s continued onslaught forcing him to stop the match.

Caribbean heavyweight champion Jaden Eccleston then went up against Strike Cayman’s Stewart Whittle in the main event, with the champ securing a unanimous-decision win. Eccleston, who had won his two previous matches by knockouts, was clearly lookng to continue his streak. However, Whittle proved the most durable of Eccleston’s opponents, refusing to be knocked out despite taking heavy blows throughout the match. Whittle also provided fireworks of his own during the bout, at one point catching Eccleston with a devastating body shot that left the undefeated boxer in visible discomfort. But that wasn’t enough to beat the Caribbean gold medalist with Eccleston dominating the fight overall to improve his amateur record to 3-0.

“I want to thank all the people who came out to support me,” said Eccleston after the match. “I have a fight coming up in the States in February and I was supposed to cut to 178 [pounds] for that fight but this fight came up and he [Whittle] was like 200 pounds. So I had to keep my weight up for this fight. He was a tough guy, but I kept the pressure up, although it was like a resting match at times because he kept holding. Whenever I caught him with clean heavy shots, he stayed close and clinched. So I would stun him, and he would hold on, which allowed him to recover. So, I couldn’t finish the fight.”

Eccleston added that his upcoming bout in Mississippi, which is set for 21 Feb., will be different. “I didn’t get the knockout tonight but my next fight I’m going to do something special. Trust me,” he said. As for Whittle, he will be looking to get back on track after this loss.

“Firstly, I would like to thank everyone, especially all my teammates and my coaches over at Strike,” he said. “Jaden is a very hard competitor and he’s deserving of this win and I respect him for that. I have a passion for this sport, but this event was something that I was thrown into last minute and only had two weeks to prepare for. So, I think I put on quite a good show with the amount of time that I had to prepare. If there is another one, obviously there’ll be better preparation and I would be able to get the victory.”

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