JBBC wants sport to grow with euphoria from awards
THE Sportsman of the Year award for Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters and the Chairman's Award to female fighter Alicia Ashley meant that Friday evening's RJR Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards ceremony was a knockout for the sport of boxing.
The sport's big night came 53 years after another boxer, George 'Bunny' Grant, won the first ever Sportsman of the Year award, and 24 years after the iconic Michael McCallum won the last of his unprecedented seven awards in 1990. Percy Hayles, who won in 1964, is the other boxer to have won the award.
There was a time when boxing was quite a big deal in Jamaica. Walters' successes, as well as the emergence of the TV-friendly Contender boxing series, has done a lot to put a punch into the sport these days.
It is largely why Jamaica Boxing Board of Control (JBBC) president, Stephen 'Bomber' Jones, is hoping to maximise on its current goodwill and push the local product forward.
"There is a Nicholas Walters out there as a result of the trend that Bunny Grant started and we as a Board need to work alongside the managers and coaches to see what it will take to work as a team to keep it going. Once we work together, the sky is the limit; there is so much left to be done," Jones said.
"As prepared as I thought I was for it (Walters winning the award), because I really thought that he was going to win - just hearing them announce it and watching him get the award, I was overwhelmed," Jones told The Gleaner, shortly after the function which was held at The Jamaica Pegasus.
"As he said, this award for him is like winning the Sportsman of the world award, it's very important for him and his family and I feel it because I know what he has been through, I know who he is as a person and I know what it means for Jamaican boxing."
Jones continued: "It gives us the impetus to continue in the way that we have been going because I believe we are on the path to taking boxing once again on top in Jamaica and having a tremendous impact on our youth," Jones noted.
The JBBC head is convinced that development should start at the school level.
"I believe it has to start with the development of the youth and we have to get the sport back in the schools. Having a Nicholas Walters here now, when we get it in the schools like we hope to do this year, and we have him as an ambassador, I think you will see another flame ignite in the sport," said Jones.
"My biggest aim is to get it in the schools, even if we start with a small number. There are schools that we have been in touch with and there are schools that have been in touch with us. In some cases the children have taken a petition and sent to us saying that we would love to know how to start a programme," he said.
"Men, women and children love the sport, it has come full circle. I don't think it has gone anywhere, all we need to do is make sure that the trend continues. We need to ensure that there is a pipeline of talented athletes that continue to get into the sport and continue to build on it and see what it does, because it's a discipline and we have the talent," Jones said.