Delivering the 'knockout' punch
Jamaica is known internationally for producing world-class athletes in various sports such as track and field, swimming and boxing.
One of the athletes who helped to set this foundation of sporting excellence on an international stage was Michael McCallum. Nicknamed 'The Body Snatcher' for his fierce body-punching technique, Michael McKenzie McCallum was born on December 7, 1956, in Kingston, Jamaica.
According to Olive Senior, Jamaica contributed to the international sport of boxing significantly in the 20th century. Next to track and field, boxing is the sport in which Jamaica has most often competed at the Olympic Games, beginning in 1948 and in every Summer Olympics between 1964 and 1996. While Jamaica has never won a medal for boxing at any of these games, Michael McCallum always stood out as a favourite to win a medal.
McCallum is recognised as one of the world's greatest fighters and had a stellar professional career spanning 15 years. He has been listed as one of only 14 men to win three or more world titles at different weights junior, middle and the light heavyweight.
McCallum amassed a great number of achievements. He has won Jamaica's Sportsman of the Year award more than any other athlete and only recently tied with Usain Bolt for most awarded Sportsman of the Year. He is also regarded as one of the Caribbean region's leading sports personalities of the 20th century.
He has been heavily featured in well-known boxing publications such as Ring and KO.
He has also won titles from three of the most prestigious governing bodies of boxing, the World Boxing Association, the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Association. He was inducted into the Los Angeles Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002, the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota New York in 2003 and the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.
According to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, McCallum had 55 bouts, going on to win 49 of them with 39 knockouts, 5 loses and 1 draw. To date, he is still Jamaica's most successful and decorated boxer, regarded as a superb ring technician. He is now a boxing trainer in Las Vegas.
These boxing gloves that belonged to 'The Body Snatcher' were donated to the Institute of Jamaica by the late Vivian Rochester, who was not only an educator, but also the former diplomatic chairman of the Institute of Sports and well known announcer for swim meets.
Olive Senior; Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage, ESPNcricinfo.com; 'A brief history of the RJR Sportsman and Sportswoman of The Year awards', The Gleaner (January 12, 2016); International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHF.com); 'Understanding Jamaica's impact in international sports', Jamaica Observer (January 12, 2014); Ring, 'KO heap Praises on Mike McCallum', The Gleaner (Oct 19, 1994); 'Mike McCallum for NY's hall of Fame', The Gleaner (November 11, 2011).
- Information compiled by Sharifa Balfour, assistant curator, National Museum Jamaica