Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer
One could say, without being contradicted, that boxing in Jamaica had a good year, because of the amount of activity that took place. A close look, however, reveals that although good things happened in professional boxing, not much happened where the amateurs were concerned.
The most exciting boxing event was the Wray and Nephew Contender show, a made-for-television boxing series that ran from March 7 to June 26. The series started with 16 boxers vying for the title of Wray and Nephew Middleweight Contender 2013. The 16 boxers were divided into two teams and they fought on a knockout basis until two were left standing.
Those two were Devon Moncriffe and Tsetsi Davis, and after 10 intriguing and exciting rounds of boxing, Moncriffe came out the victor with a controversial split decision that gave him the top prize of $1,000,000 and the title.
The Contender series has brought new life to boxing in Jamaica over the past three years, and with a plan to include boxers from outside Jamaica next year, and to increase the prize money, the promoters, MJK Productions, will undoubtedly raise the bar and produce an even more exciting show next year.
The expected spin-off from the Contender series did not take place as there was only one other professional card in 2013. This was the Carl Grant-promoted Rumble at Jamaica College, which took place on July 17. The main bout between Donovan "Police" Campbell and Clifton Barnett was not exciting, and the card turned out to be a financial disaster. Although there was talk about other fight cards, none materialised.
Jamaica ended the year with the distinction of still having two world champions. Alicia Ashley remained the World Boxing Council super bantamweight title holder by virtue of two exciting victories. She had her first successful title defence against Chantall Martinez in Panama on April 20, winning on points, and then scored a dramatic fifth-round technical-knockout (TKO) victory over Mexican, Zenny Sotomayor, in Tijuana, Mexico, on October 23.
The other champion, Nicholas Walters, took some time to make the first defence of the World Boxing Association title that he won on December 8, 2012 here in Jamaica, with a seventh-round TKO victory over Daulis Prescott from Colombia. After signing a promotional contract with Bob Arum in October, he fought Alberto Garza from Mexico, in Corpus Christi, Texas, on November 9 and won by fourth- round technical knockout.
His next opponent will be the WBA super champion Simpiwe Vetyeka. The WBA has ordered both camps to enter into negotiations for a fight which must take place by April 5, 2014. A win here would give Walters' career a big boost and put him in line for fights with the best men in the featherweight division and the increased purses that go with this.
Amateur boxing over the past year has been stagnant, and there has to be a lot of effort in 2014 to move this side of boxing in Jamaica forward. There were two visits from overseas teams, Canada and the Cayman Islands, and on both occasions Jamaica's weaknesses were shown up.
The National Open Senior Cham-pionships, which took place in November, showed that there is hope for the future. Stanley Couch gym came out the champions for the second year in succession, but it is clear that a lot of work needs to be done to produce boxers who can compete on the world scene.
Two amateur boxers, middleweight Janathan Hanson and welterweight Kestna Davis, represented Jamaica at the World Amateur Boxing championships in Almaty, Kaza-khstan, in October. The standard there was very high and, as a result, both boxers did not make it past the first round. They must have learnt some lessons, however, that will make them better competitors in 2014 - a year full of promise and challenges.