Few of those, closely associated with sports today, would know of Wilfred “Battling” Douglas.
He died recently at the advanced age of 89, without fanfare. He went to his grave in as unassuming a manner as he lived his life. There was fire in his soul though, for when he got into a boxing ring during the 1950s and 1960s, few brought the kind of ferocity that he delivered, to the excitement of capacity crowds in arenas, over and over.
There have been several times in our sporting history, when boxing was considered the most popular of sports.
Douglas was one of the driving forces of the boxing movement during a glorious era. BoxRec, the recognized finest historical-statistics keeper in the world of boxing, has Douglas’ win-loss-tie record as 11-7-3. That will remain unofficial, just like those of other luminaries of the sport, because of the inconsistency of the local system, for many years when a boxing commission was not in place.
The 11-7-3 record, modest at best, statistically, does not begin to indicate the grand warrior that was Douglas.
To put this man in the perspective that more recent generations can relate to, Douglas was the forerunner to Ray Minus Sr. and Elisha Obed. Indeed, he was the best locally-based welterweight until his prime years were no more, and Minus Sr. evolved as the finest of that division in the country.
Minus Sr. gave way to Obed. Douglas is in that conversation and to give pure boxing fans a deeper understanding of his ring capacity, he was similar to the great American welterweight champion Henry Armstrong. The late great Armstrong was listed at 5’ 5-1/2”, about the same as Douglas. They had the same aggressively-smart style, and were hard to hit, though inside and easily within reach, but potent with blows from either hand.
Armstrong had the benefit of a quality development environment, while with Douglas and many of his Bahamian peers, they worked their way up from scratch. Given the same avenue of development as that of Armstrong, and Douglas would have been a world champion, in my view.
He was that good. Yama Bahama and Gomeo Brennan, acknowledged as among the three greatest Bahamian pugilists of all-time, along with Obed, are a collective example of how good Douglas really was. He fought both of them (Gomeo twice) in their native island of Bimini and thrilled the Biminites so much, while losing decisions in each case, that he became a hero to the inhabitants of the twin island.
He fought three other times in Bimini and was victorious. The people of Bimini loved him for his courageousness and determination. He became an adopted Biminite.
I extend condolences to his family. Your patriarch was very special.
I close out today’s column with a personal tribute from my good friend and sporting colleague Arnold Bain, who remembers Douglas with fondness. His salute follows:
“There are some things that are so impressionable, that young boys never forget them. I vividly remember an occasion when I was about six-years-old, June 30, 1955, when about a million persons in Bimini (in reality about 300-400) gathered to see the biggest event in our island’s history, our very own Yama Bahama fight the “Nassau Battling Douglas.” I will never forget, because it wasn’t until Muhammad Ali fought Jerry Quarry after being re-instated, that there ever was an outpouring of black people dressed in their “fineries” as it was on that occasion in Bimini.
“Even at that young age, I can vividly remember how I, like everyone else, just continued shouting “hit him Yama, hit him Yama” for the entire night. Poor Battling Douglas did not have one fan in Bimini. The irony is, that, subsequently he (Douglas) became a household name in Bimini and actually boxed there, more than Yama and Gomeo combined.
“Obviously, this recollection re-emerged when I read of Battling Douglas’ recent death. May his soul rest in peace! He will always be remembered in Bimini.”
Happy trails Douglas. May your soul forever rest in peace!
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.