The Guyanese public should make time to go to boxing events for the sake of the sport’s marvellous athletes and pride in our country
Boxing in Guyana is a sport which requires, especially in a third world country like ours, a lot of intervention on the part of the government and private sector, to make it a sport which can propel Guyana to the top levels of the world boxing fraternity. Guyana has always produced world class boxers, and I remember Lennox Beckles in particular, a pugilist who ventured into the top classes of his division and made Guyana proud, especially when he fought the Jamaican and British Empire (Commonwealth) champion, Bunny Grant here in Guyana in 1967 for a draw –what a great fight! I remember that night when rain came down and myself and President Cheddi had to seek shelter under the ring until the fight started back, as it took place at the GFC ground in the open air and was full to capacity. Beckles went on to fight for the world championship in Mexico in 1968, which he lost, against Jose Napoles, a legend in international boxing. I remember, because I lived next door to Len Beharry on Camp Street, getting ready to ride my bike alongside Beckles as he jogged and trained around the seawall every morning after meeting at Beharry’s home. Len Beharry, by the way, was a trail-blazer for boxing in Guyana, as he financed many boxers and was the prime promoter of boxing events at that time.
Editor, Lennox Beckles was a junior welterweight and fought in the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions. He started his career in 1960 when he won his first fight against Ralph at GFC. He beat two other Guyana boxing legends, Ivelaw Stephenson and Caesar Barrow in 1965, and in 1966 he beat Eddie Perkins, the USA champion and another world class boxer. Beckles also defeated the world class Trinidadian, Vernon Lewis, who fought the likes of Wilfredo Benitez, the boxing legend of Puerto Rico and the man who gave Sugar Ray Leonard a great fight later in his illustrious career. In 1967, Beckles fought Johnny Cooke for the British and Commonwealth title in England, lost this fight on points, but beat Cooke in 1969 in a re-match; Cooke was also a world class boxer. Also in 1967, Beckles fought and lost to Carlos Hernandez, the world champion from Venezuela and a boxing legend in his own time.
Through it all, Lennox Beckles acted like a professional and always trained really hard, even under the restrictions of low finances, lack of better training facilities and equipment and the proper connections for the international fights to happen.
But he overcame all the negatives and proved to Guyanese and the world that he was a fighter who could stand in any ring, at any time, in any place, against the very best, win or lose, to represent himself and his country, with a heart of courage and fortitude. Lennox Beckles was a hero of Guyana and took boxing to new heights and all Guyanese should be aware of his achievements.
In more recent times we have seen boxing revived by the good work of Mr Odinga Lumumba, both as a promoter and manager of boxers, and his success in discovering and promoting Andrew Murray, ‘Six Heads‘ Lewis and Michael Benjamin, all of them champions and proud to represent Guyana in the international limelight.
All Guyanese should be proud of these three men and Mr Lumumba needs to get back to his promotional and handling skills which Guyanese boxing needs.
The present Boxing Board, in collaboration with the government (which donates the venue and promotes boxing events on NCN for free) and the private sector (BanksDIH, AnsaMcCal, etc) are doing a great job, and a whole lot of credit must go to Mr Peter Abdul for the leadership and vision which he brings to the Board, not to mention his knowledge of the sport he obviously loves.
When I attend these boxing events, I cannot help but admire the professionalism exhibited at ringside and inside the ring, and witnessing the style and energy of these young fighters is encouraging for the prospects of Guyanese boxing. Young fighters like Edmond DeClou, ranked 39th in the world, Simeon Hardy, ranked 37th in the world and the ‘Coolie Bully,‘ ranked 38th in the world are but a few of the many young men and women who can reach the top echelons of this very competitive sport, if only given the chance to do so, just as Lennox Beckles did back in the old days.
Editor, like any other sport, boxing needs the support of all Guyanese, because these young professionals are not rich kids, born with silver spoons in their mouths; no, these youths are mostly from the poorer sections of our society who have dreams but who struggle and strive to fulfil their dreams with extremely hard training and discipline.
When they face their opponents, they have no team to back them up or to save them, because they are all alone in that ring, fighting, not only for a payday but for their own personal pride and for their country’s honour. So, we, the Guyanese public, should pay attention and make time to go to boxing events for the sake of these marvellous athletes and for the sake of our own pride in our country. Besides that, the fun and laughter one encounters at boxing matches and the intensity of the fans’ cries of support with comments from ‘left field‘ are what make boxing a unique sport and one worth supporting wholeheartedly.
Cheddi (Joey) Jagan (Jr)