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Disconnect with ‘The Axeman’?

Published:Tuesday | January 6, 2015 | 12:00 AMOral Tracey
AP Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters of Jamaica (left) lands a solid punch to the head of Vic 'Raging Bull' Darchinyan of the United States during the World Boxing Association (WBA) World featherweight title boxing match in Macau on May 31, 2014.

Without any credible opposition, contradiction or worthwhile controversy, World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight boxing champion, Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, should in a matter of days be officially named the 2014 Jamaican Sportsman of the Year.

It is difficult to fathom any other result after 'The Axeman' successfully defended his title not once, but twice in 2014. He imperiously knocked out Vic Darchinyan in Macaw, China in May, a knockout which has subsequently been voted the 'Knockout of the Year'.

Walters was equally marauding in his demolition of Nonito Donaire in Carson, California in October, to now boast an impressive record of 25-0 with 21 knockouts.

Despite his obvious class and emergence as a top quality international prize fighter and a legitimate star of the sport, there seems to be a subtle disconnect between Walters and his native Jamaica in terms of widespread adulation and respect.

Walters just seems not to enjoy the national acclaim commensurate with his status as a world boxing champion.

An index of this uncomfortable realty is highlighted by the fact that when 'The Axeman' returned to Jamaica in December for the Christmas holidays, the motorcade and public welcome that was organised for him in Western Jamaica, the expenses for that motorcade and the related festivities were undertaken by 'The Axeman' himself to the tune of over $300,000.

national welcome

It was hardly the broad-based Government-funded national welcome we have become accustomed to when our track and field athletes return from their exploits on the world stage.

Sad to say, the disparity in treatment has not gone unnoticed by the camp of 'The Axeman'. The comparisons have indeed been articulated between the level of respect and recognition Walters receives here in Jamaica compared to the status he enjoys and the treatment he receives in his adopted country of Panama, where he is reportedly treated like royalty.

Is this simply another classic case of a prophet being without honour in his own land, or are there deep seated underlying factors for this apparent disconnect between the champ and his people?

The fact of the matter is 'The Axeman' has not lived in Jamaica for close to a decade. Nicholas Walters continues to live in Panama. His professional career was meticulously built almost from scratch by his Haitian manager, Jacques Deschamps. 'The Axeman' has a Panamanian girlfriend and his brash and confident expressiveness has over time evolved into a unique accent encapsulating a mix of Spanish, English and the patois of his native Roehampton district in St James.

Despite Walters consistently fighting in the colours of Jamaica and trying his utmost best to maintain his roots, the fickle and often complicated people we are, from officialdom through to the general populace seem not to be showing 'The Axeman' the level of love he deserves.

The achievement of becoming a World boxing champion is nothing to scoff at. The levels of hard work, dedication, focus and sacrifice shown by Nicholas Walters to date have been remarkable.

The sustained euphoria brought about by the super performances by our track and field athletes in recent years might have also contributed to the semi marginalisation of Nicholas Walters.

It is as if Olympic gold medals and 100-metre World records have become the standard by which all sports performances are judged.

Even if it were so, becoming a World boxing champion must be pretty close as an achievement to winning an Olympic gold medal. To successfully defend that title not once, but to be so impressive in doing so twice that should at least ensure there is no need for debates, about the level of recognition and respect due to Walters.

One anticipates that this mysterious anomaly will be addressed in due course, starting with Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters' imminent claim of his first national Sportsman of the Year award.