Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer
As momentum builds up towards the Wray & Nephew Rumble on Jamrock promotion at the National Indoor Sports Centre on December 8, for the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight title, featuring Jamaica's Nicholas Walters and Colombia's Daulis Prescott, The Gleaner looks back at the three Jamaicans who previously failed in their bid to win a world title on local soil. Walters will be trying to accomplish what they did not.
Bunny Grant was the first, and he lost to Eddie Perkins on April 18, 1964. Percy Hayles was the second Jamaican fighter to try to win a world title at home when he went up against Carlos Hernandez from Venezuela, on July 10, 1965 at the National Stadium for the world junior welterweight title. It is interesting to note that Hernandez defeated Eddie Perkins to take the title for which Grant had fought.
They met on January 18, 1965, in Venezuela, and Hernandez dethroned Perkins by way of a curious split decision over 15 rounds. Referee Henry Armstrong voted 150-139 for Perkins, which meant that he gave Perkins every round while the judges Dima Fernandez 143-142 and Santos Arizmendi 146-142 voted for Hernandez, making him the new champion.
Hernandez made one other successful defence on May 15, 1965 against Mario Rossito before climbing into the ring against Hayles, at Jamaica's National Stadium. Here is how I saw it.
There was a lot of excitement before the fight, as Hayles was given a better-than-even-money chance of taking the title because of his superb punching power. Hernandez, however, was renowned not only for his boxing skills, but also his punching power, and he had an excellent knockout record going into the fight.
As the bell for the start was sounded, Hayles came out of his corner like a flash and attacked Hernandez. It was obvious that the decision had been made by his corner to try to take out the champion early, and the action was fast and furious. Hayles, who had a lethal right hand, set up his man with the left jab and then unloaded several left and right hooks to the head and body.
Although the champion took a lot of shots, he also used deft footwork to slip some of the haymakers thrown by Hayles. He did get in a few hard rights of his own, but these did not dissuade Hayles, who kept attacking and took the round comfortably.
There was pandemonium in the stadium during the interval, and several of Hayles' fans at ringside started making bets that the fight would end in the second round. Several bets were accepted between friends, by way of a handshake, and the one minute interval could not end fast enough for them.
Hayles was on the attack again in the second, but this was a much closer round, as Hernandez started to find his range and gave as much as he received. Hayles remained the aggressor, however, and one could see the effect of his punches on Hernandez's face which became pink. The Venezuelan champion, though under fire, kept his composure and scored with a few body shots. It was still Hayles, however, who looked dominant.
TAKE IT EASY
As Hayles returned to his corner, it was noticeable that he seemed winded, and some of his fans wondered aloud whether he was setting too torrid a pace. There was advice from some spectators for him to "take it easy".
Hernandez was given some stern words by his trainers, Ishmael Espana and Raul Gonzalez, during the interval, and he came out for the third round a different man. It was he who was on the attack early, and he launched a furious two-fisted attack that pushed Hayles back. It was the Jamaican's time to defend and this proved a difficult task .
Near the end of the round, a vicious right hook to the head opened a cut over Hayles' left eye and Hernandez followed this up with a brutal left hook to the head that put Hayles down. Those of us at ringside who were close to the action knew immediately that it was all over, as there was a glazed look in the eyes of the Jamaican challenger.
Referee Willie Pep counted to 10 at 2:53 of the third round, while Hayles looked on helplessly. He then crawled to his corner on hands and knees, to his disappointed cornermen. He said afterwards, that he did not hear anything until the count had reached eight.
Another Jamaican had failed to win a world title at home.