Amateur boxing misses former global stars Knowles, Johnson

LIMA, Peru — Take your pick, opting for Tureano Johnson or Nathaniel Knowles. An argument could be made for either of them being the best amateur boxer in Bahamian history.

Sitting in the Miguel Grau Coliseum during the two nights of boxing finals at the 18th Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, I admit reminiscing and getting caught up in the nostalgia of the heights Bahamian amateur boxing had, in their eras, climbed.

I was in the corner with Bert Perry, when Knowles and Gary Davis made history by being the first Bahamian Olympic boxers; when Knowles added to that historic aspect by winning at that high level; and later when Knowles won the first ever boxing medal (middleweight silver) for The Bahamas, in 1974, at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

I was not as connected to Johnson, but recall being present when then Sports Minister Neville Wisdom held a ceremony to salute Johnson for winning a Commonwealth youth boxing medal. Then, I was there in Beijing, China, when he exploded and won two sensational bouts at the 2008 Olympic Games. Johnson and Knowles are at the top echelon of Bahamian amateur boxing, for sure.

So, as I observed the activities at the Miguel Grau Coliseum this past Thursday and Friday, memories of the occasions for the deep feeling of national pride the two afforded Bahamians came flooding back.

We were not represented in boxing at these games. Why not?

This era has no amateur boxers who can go to the pinnacle stages of world competitions. None had qualified for the 2019 Pan Am Games. There is no intent here to minimize the national efforts of Davis (the late stalwart, versatile athlete), Valentino Knowles and Carl Hield. The reality is, though, that Knowles and Johnson could be counted on for more.

So, for me, I had to appreciate that we did, in fact, have a representative in boxing at the games. I refer to the nation’s second amateur heavyweight boxing champion, Wellington Miller. He went on to lead the amateur boxing program for more than two decades, collectively; and the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), as president, for eight years.

He is in Peru as one of the significant technical point persons. Boxing, which concluded on Friday night, was one of his responsibilities.

Thus, indeed The Bahamas did have a representative in boxing.

Miller, although no longer administratively in control of amateur boxing, still holds the sport dear to his heart. We chatted about the state of amateur boxing, and the professional side of the sport.

He pointed to the lack of passion and work ethics.

“The boxers today just don’t have that zeal, the strong will to sacrifice and get up and train regularly. The passion is not there. So, we come to the Pan Am Games and see other countries that we have done well against, here, but we don’t have a boxer in the field. It’s tough for boxing because it has become too expensive for promoters. Those who lead amateur and professional boxing, need more funding, much more, to get us back to where we were,” lamented Miller.

I am fully in agreement with him.

At the Miguel Grau Coliseum, I just observed, wished and hoped to be able to help recapture the eras of glorious boxing that Miller and I once participated in, and enjoyed.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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