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Boxing In Schools Has A Long And Colourful History

Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer

Making a plea for boxing in schools many, many years ago, a well-known Jamaican had this to say: "Boxing is not only one of the finest sports, but far and away the safest. Football is positively a dangerous game and in cricket they might be killed at any time by the ball. Boxing has three outstanding points, to say the least. It teaches sportsmanship, courage and self-reliance and that is why we are hoping to see it spread in the schools and hope that it will never die."

The well-known Jamaica who made those bold remarks was the then president of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, (JBBC), Norman Washington Manley, former premier of Jamaica and National Hero. The occasion was the ceremony for the presentation of trophies and medals at the end of the annual Inter-Scholastic Boxing tournament, on December 20, 1935, at the Rose Garden Stadium on Victoria Avenue in Kingston.

There were joint winners that year, because, at the end on the tournament, two colleges, St George's and Manning's, ended up in a tie, and it was decided that they would share the winner's trophy, each school keeping it for six months. By way of a coin toss, Manning's was designated to hold it for the first six months.

Recently, a call from the newly crowned World Boxing Association (WBA)featherweight champion Nicholas Walters for boxing to be reintroduced to the schools in Jamaica, brought the issue into the forefront once more.

A long past

Boxing in schools goes back to 1932. After years of discussion and a petition from several schools, the decision to start an Inter- Scholastic Boxing Tournament was taken at a meeting of the JBBC on December 26, 1931. Present at that meeting were the president Norman Manley, E. O. Turvill, a vice-president and members of the board, Mrs Edna Manley, W. E. Foster-Davis, G. Van Seggelen, G. DeSouza, F. G. Joy and Martin Smith the secretary/treasurer. At that meeting, a special committee was appointed to work out the details for the championships. Another member of the JBBC, Leslie R. Mordecai, donated the main trophy which was named the Mordecai Silver Challenge Cup.

Things were put in place and the first tournament was held at the Ward Theatre in Kingston on December 22, 1932. The schools that participated then and on a regular basis afterwards were: St George's College, Wolmer's Boys, Manning's School, Jamaica College, Munro College, Cornwall College and Calabar High. December was designated the month for the annual competition.

The championships in 1938 were of particular importance because the special guest was the then Governor of Jamaica Sir Arthur Richards. They were held at the Ward Theatre in Kingston and there is a photograph in The Gleaner of December 22, 1938, showing Sir Arthur in formal wear, presenting the trophy to the captain of the winning team, Wolmer's. The other teams that participated that year were Munro, Calabar and Manning's.

Boxing remained a competitive sport in schools up to 1950 and well-known sportsman Alva Anderson, who earned a University of Cambridge Blue in boxing, confirmed to The Gleaner that he participated for Jamaica College in the Inter-Scholastic competition for several years. Jamaica College won the competition in 1950 and the other schools that participated were St George's College, Calabar, Wolmer's and Munro. Anderson was the featherweight champion that year.

One strong opponent

His coach was the renown T. K. Wint, who owned one of the finest gyms in Jamaica on Windward Road. Wint also taught boxing at Excelsior School up to 1954, even though it was not a competitive sport then. Anderson confirmed that the ban in schools took place in 1952, and that well-known educator Bishop Percival Gibson, the long-time headmaster at Kingston College, was the man primarily responsible for its demise.

"Bishop Gibson did not like boxing and he refused to make Kingston College compete in the inter-schools tournament. He not only did that, he campaigned against it being a school sport and was so influential that he got the other headmasters to agree to the ban in schools. We who used to enjoy it were very upset," Anderson confided.

The big question now is, with the sport being on a roll, can it return to the schools? Members of the JBBC have declared publicly that they are all for boxing being re-introduced as early as possible and if possible at the primary school level. Anderson too believes that it would be a great idea. "It would reduce some of the violence in schools if the energy of some of the young men could be properly channelled into a sport such as boxing," he said.

Job Walters, who groomed his son Nicholas to be a world champion, has been coaching young boxers at Anchovy High School in St James for more than a decade. Because his two sons Nicholas, who was deputy head boy, and Oraine, attended Anchovy High, Job took an interest in their activities and first assisted with coaching the cricket team. He then introduced boxing informally, and attests to the fact that several troublesome boys with whom he came into contact, had their lives changed by learning boxing.

School heroes

"Boxing made them become interested in school once more, and when they entered the JBBC National Championships as members of my gym and won, they came back to school as heroes and showed off their trophies and medals at school assembly," he said.

He paid special tribute to a former headmaster at Anchovy, Walton Small, who he said was very cooperative, and assisted him with Nicholas and several other boxers who were allowed to use the school facilities to train. "We have saved a lot of young men from ruin with boxing, and if it becomes an official part of school activities, I know that hundreds more will benefit.

"Boxers such as my other son Oraine, Roxroy Ferguson, Kenyatta Baker who is still in school because of boxing, Miguel Bernard, Oshane Reid, Kirmani Campbell, a Jamaica representative, Cleon Smith, Romario Richards, Romeil Stephenson, Nickoy Malcolm and female boxers Tanya Davis, Shantelle Heavens and Shanay Watson are all Anchovy High students who represented my gym. I hope it happens soon," he declared.

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