Sports

‘Boston Blackie’ remembered as a fierce competitor and instructor

The sports fraternity of The Bahamas has lost another icon, this time one of the more charismatic and versatile athletes in the history of sports in the country.

Bahamian Hall of Famer Leonard “Boston Blackie” Miller passed away on Sunday, Father’s Day, at Princess Margaret Hospital. He was 82.

Miller rose to fame through boxing and cycling as a young athlete coming up in The Bahamas in the 50’s and 60’s, but made his mark on other sports as well as an athlete and later transitioned into a life of teaching sports through the school sector and his club. He certainly left his mark in the ring, in cycling arenas in the country and elsewhere, and through the many young men and women he mentored in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

“Everything he touched turned to gold,” said Wellington Miller, former president of the Amateur Boxing Federation of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC). “Boston had a great impact on boxing as everyone knows, but he also had an impact on cycling, school sports and sports in general. He was instrumental in Cat Island, fielding a team for the Bahamas Games at one point and he did a lot for sports on that island as well. I’m just hoping that he receives a well-recognized funeral for the contributions that he made to sports development in the country – something that the family and the sporting community can be proud of.”

In boxing, Miller compiled a 14-19-2 win/loss/draw record with two knockouts over a 26-year career, according to BoxRec – the official record keeper of professional bouts. He is a former Bahamian heavyweight champion, and all but two of his bouts took place in The Bahamas, attracting capacity crowds.

“As far as boxing is concerned, his impact was immeasurable and he certainly was one of my mentors,” said Wellington. “He showed a lot of respect for decision-making and a lot of respect for the sport and always wanted his students to ascend higher levels than he did. He never withheld information from any young athlete that would make that particular athlete better – whether they were students of his or kids from other clubs. He was just a dedicated athlete and mentor and a great man for sports in The Bahamas. He will surely be missed. He is the G.O.A.T. [greatest of all time] of Bahamian sports.”

Miller was one of those unsung heroes in sports in The Bahamas, who was fierce and ferocious as a competitor, and dedicated and stern as a mentor. In cycling, he rose to stardom in the late 50’s and early 60’s, competing fiercely with the top riders in the country. Miller represented The Bahamas at the West Indies Goodwill Championships in 1965, when he nearly equaled the performance of fellow competitor Roger Gibbon, a British Commonwealth Champion. Five years later, he represented The Bahamas at the World Cycling Championships in London, England. In 1974, he returned to the world championships, this time in Kingston, Jamaica.

In cycling, Miller had a number of top three finishes over a career that spanned more than two decades. He is a member of the second class of the National Sports Hall of Fame, elected in 2003.

“He demanded an audience, whether it was in boxing or cycling,” said Wellington. “He traveled all over, representing The Bahamas with distinction. He leaves a void that cannot be filled.”

Bahamas Cycling Federation (BCF) President and BOC Vice President Roy Colebrooke said we will never see another individual in sports in The Bahamas like “Boston Blackie” Miller, in terms of the level of commitment, tenacity and fan appeal that athletes of yesteryear brought to sports in The Bahamas.

“Boston was one of those elder statesmen who came out to the track at the sports center whose presence demanded attention and crowd support because of the level of commitment and intensity that he competed with,” said Colebrooke. “He was one of the top cyclists in the country for many years – one of the first to represent The Bahamas at the Commonwealth Games. Boston helped pave the way for track and road cycling in The Bahamas and he will surely be missed. Today is a sad moment for sports because he was involved in so much. Certainly, we have lost an icon, one of the last individuals who truly loved sports and who truly gave his all to the success and development of sports in The Bahamas.”

Miller was a physical education teacher at Government High School (GHS) and C.C. Sweeting High, where he molded the lives of many young Bahamians – a number of whom went on to excel in sports locally and abroad. Miller was at C.C. Sweeting when the school was known for local high school athletics and dominated the local scene in the nineties. He was instrumental in the school winning the first six National High School Track and Field Championships. His boxing club, the Bahamas Youth Sporting Club, served the inner communities for many years.

“He was very formidable in the ring and he passed that right on to his students,” said Wellington. “His students were well-instructed and well-guided and one thing you could count on is that they would give you their all in the ring. They exemplified the same mentality and ferocity that Boston showed in the ring. Also, he was always there as a mentor, a taxi driver in getting them to school and to sports events, and a physical education teacher and coach. My greatest memory of him is when he cashed in his life insurance policy to get a boxing team out of the country to compete. That, alone, shows his dedication and commitment to the sport of boxing and a willingness to help others more so than himself and develop the young. He was just a great man.”

Wellington said they traveled on a number of national teams together, including the Olympics, where he served under the legendary Bahamian sportsman as an assistant coach. He said he was also privileged to dress “Boston Blackie” for his last professional fight – a loss to fellow Bahamian Ernie Barr.

“Boston is one who I learnt from and he did a wonderful job in helping many other young men and women in sports in The Bahamas,” said Wellington. “He was a giant of a man and he certainly will be missed.”

Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Philip “Brave” Davis said that Miller was a fearless and outspoken elder statesman in the country and that the PLP joins the sporting community in mourning the loss of one of the country’s greatest in sports.

“Leonard Miller known and revered by throngs of boxing fans for his fighting style of cutting off the ring, cornering his opponents and delivering repeated overhand lefts and rights he called the ‘Bolo Punch’ – pounding many of his opponents into submission,” he said. “Miller, like many of his boxing contemporaries, never achieved and enjoyed the international fame and success in boxing as other Bahamian boxing luminaries, but his contribution to the sport of boxing locally was profound and paved the way for a generation of participants in the ‘sweet science’. He was a husband and father who was a disciplinarian by nature and a common man who lived in the Yellow Elder community. Mr. Miller taught our student athletes the values of teamwork, self confidence and self discipline as important building blocks of success not only in sports, but in life. As a community leader, he molded many of our youth into responsible and productive adulthood. We thank him for his service to our [country]. He has left with us an enduring and rich legacy of excellence and leadership. On behalf of the Progressive Liberal Party, I express heartfelt condolences to his family and the sporting community, generally. May his soul rest in peace.”

Miller’s recognizable voice and his willingness to always tell a story are two of the traits that will always be remembered. He is survived by his children – Maria Miller, Theresa Williams, Flossie Cooper, Charles Miller and Latoya Stuart. Last year November, he lost his wife Minerva, and he is also predeceased by two of his children, Mavis Bodie and Benjamin Miller.

May his soul rest in peace.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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