Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer
Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters will, on December 8, try to become the first Jamaican boxer to win a world title in Jamaica. On that date, he will meet Daulis Prescott of Colombia for the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight title. Three other boxers tried and failed to accomplish this feat. They were Bunny Grant, Percy Hayles and Richard 'Shrimpy' Clarke.
Will Walters be able to do it, and can he learn from their mistakes? This is the third in a series of FLASHBACK articles on what happened in those three previous challenges, and here is how I saw it.
Richard 'Shrimpy' Clarke, the pint-sized dynamo, was seen to have a great chance of defeating the then World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight champion, Sot Chitalada from Thailand, when they met at the National Arena on September 7, 1990. Clarke had trained long and hard, including a stint in Florida, for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and went into the fight a very confident man, although the champion was posted a 3-2 favourite. All Jamaica was behind him as he sought to create history, and among those present in the arena were the acting Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson and the Minister of Labour, Welfare and Sports, Portia Simpson. Prestige Enterprises promoted the fight.
Chitalada came in at the prescribed 112-pound limit, while Clarke was a pound and a half lighter. It was clear from the outset that Clarke would be depending on his jabs to win the fight and he went to work immediately.
He jabbed and moved, and had instructions from his corner not to remain stationary, as Chitalada had a reputation of being an excellent infighter, who sometimes resorted to rough-house tactics. Clarke held his own in that first round and sauntered back to his corner confidently, at the end.
The moves by both boxers for the next several rounds were like those in a chess game, as they capitalised on their individual strengths, and there was an ebb and flow of activity. What was important, however, was that Clarke was holding his own, and this made his fans and his manager Jacques Deschamps Jr very happy.
The tempo stepped up appreciably in the ninth round as both men realised that it was now reaching crunch time. Clarke had an excellent round, moving around the ring adroitly and throwing and landing jabs with regularity. He had given his opponent a lot to think about in this round. As he went back to his corner he had a satisfied look on his face, and raised his hands high over his head to the cheers of the crowd.
At the start of the 10th round there was a dramatic change in the approach of the champion. He got very serious, realising that his title was on the line, and moved in aggressively. Clarke tried to be evasive, but Chitalada pressed hard, forced him back to the ropes and unleashed a barrage of punches to the body.
The rough-house tactics that were heard of before came to the fore, and Clarke suddenly seemed vulnerable. He took a lot of punishment in this round, and his confidence level dropped appreciably. He also did not get any assistance from referee Tony Perez, despite shouts from his corner.
Chitalada lifted his game a notch higher in the 11th and Clarke just could not cope. The champion launched a furious attack immediately the bell was sounded and scored quickly with two savage uppercuts. He missed with the next, landed with a left hook followed by two more uppercuts, and a shocked Clarke hit the deck. He rose to his left knee and looked in the direction of his corner as the referee continued to count. To everyone's surprise, he did not react until the very last moment, and by then it was too late. It was all over after only 44 seconds of the round had elapsed.
Clarke said afterwards that his seconds told him to stay down for the mandatory eight count, and paying attention to them, he lost track of the referee's count. He said that he definitely could have continued, but by then it was only an afterthought.
Judges Carol Castellana and Jerry Roth had it 96-94 for Chitalada at the end, while the other judge, Jesus Arias, had Clarke ahead 97-95.