The Bahamas has a two-member team at the AIBA (International Boxing Association) Men’s World Boxing Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, representing the country at one of the highest levels of boxing in the world, and according to reports, they are not properly attired in the country’s national colors.
Bahamas Amateur Boxing Federation (BABF) President Vincent Strachan said from the Serbian capital on Monday that they didn’t receive the proper uniforms prior to travel. Welterweight boxer Rashield Williams lost his opening match on points inside Štark Arena in Belgrade on Monday, and junior middleweight Carl Hield fights this afternoon in Belgrade.
Shadow Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Iram Lewis, the immediate past minister, released a statement on Tuesday, calling out those responsible for the uniform gaffe.
“There is no greater honor than to represent your country on the global stage. Our athletes sacrifice and train very hard to be able to proudly compete and represent the gold, aquamarine and black. I must ask though, how our boxing athletes competing at this prestigious event do not have uniforms so that they can be clearly identified, and the world can mark the manner of our bearing? I am not sure whether it is the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), the boxing federation or the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. However, when we send off our athletes to compete, we need to provide at least the basic resources,” said Lewis. “We must do better … some entity must take responsibility for this and seek to rectify it immediately with a forward-looking view. Whenever our national athletes represent this country locally or abroad, they should be reasonably resourced so that they are focused on performing at their optimum level and representing our Bahamaland at the highest standards.”
The official uniform contract with The Bahamas and Puma was finalized just after the 2012 London Olympics when the country shocked the sports world again at the highest level of sport, winning one gold and finishing second in the gold medal per capita category that year to Grenada.
Since then, the country has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with athletic giant Puma to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was Adidas before that. There should be no shortage of uniform supplies, and really no reason why any authentic national team from The Bahamas shouldn’t be outfitted in the national colors.
BOC President Romell Knowles said on Facebook that it is neither the fault or responsibility of the government through the sports ministry of the BOC for the
outfitting of the national boxing team outside of the Olympics.
“The BOC was approached about uniforms, and in speaking with President Strachan, I made him aware, our apparel resources was depleted after the Olympic Games and we do not have the sizes he required in inventory,” said Knowles. “Although we assist as best we can and when we can, the Bahamas Olympic Committee provides apparel for all games under our charge, airline tickets, housing and accommodations. Organized federations, as part of their planning and preparation, source uniforms for their games, those that fall outside the remit of the BOC.”
Knowles threw the leadership of the boxing federation under the proverbial bus, stating that they failed in their planning to confirm a supply of proper presentation and competition gear.
“Quite frankly, I am appalled and will take corrective steps to ensure this never happens again. It’s very simple, going forward we will review the operational plan to ensure proper planning and readiness. It is embarrassing … to say the least,” said Knowles.
Financial assistance was provided to the Bahamas Amateur Boxing Federation by both the ministry and the BOC, albeit at the 11th hour, again, according to Knowles, due to a late request.
“Such ad hoc requests places undue burden on the public purse and the BOC coffers. Quite frankly it portraits a challenge with proper planning and preparation,” said the BOC president.
Lewis said he trusts that all parties involved will make every effort to accommodate the athletes who would have sacrificed so much time and resources to ensure that they are at their best, stating that a uniform gaffe should be of their least concerns and never materialize on an international stage.
“Our athletes should never be in a situation where they are in an opening ceremony being viewed by millions of people around the world in jeans and a T-shirt because national uniforms weren’t provided,” said Lewis. “I know that these athletes deserve better, and they must be in the best possible shape, physically and mentally, to be successful and continue to make our country proud.”
The world championships are ongoing and will wrap up Saturday, November 6. Accompanying Williams and Hield are Olympian Nathaniel Knowles as the head coach, Shirley Strachan as the COVID-19 Ambassador, and BBF President Vincent Strachan as the team manager.
Over 500 boxers from 88 countries around the world are taking part in 13 weight divisions in the global championships. The event is open to both amateurs and professional boxers who have fought less than 15 bouts, and $2.6 million is up for grabs.
The gold medalists will receive $100,000 each, the silver medalists will receive $50,000 each and the bronze medalists are set to receive $25,000 each.