Adrian Frater | Boxing gym needed in MoBay
As I watched the military and the police round up unattached young men across St James last week at the start of the state of public emergency in the parish, I could not help but reflect on the times when residents could walk the streets of the city around the clock, without fear of the violence, which has made the parish the nation's murder capital.
In those glorious days of the past, there was very little room for 'the devil to find work for idle hands' as our young people were busily channelling their energies into the various sporting disciplines such as football, cricket, netball, basketball and track and field, which were all stellar attractions in Montego Bay, which was then dubbed the friendly city.
In that era, whenever a boy displays overaggressive tendencies, measures were quickly taken to get him to join organisations like the Montego Bay Dragon Gym, where persons like the late James 'Mr Parkie' Parkinson would teach them boxing so that they not only burn off excess energy in a constructive way, but, as many of them did, became good enough boxers to represent Jamaica on the international stage.
At a time when we probably need more than ever to find creative ways for the many angry youths in the parish to get involved in wholesome social activities, which has the capacity to keep them grounded, focused and away from the ugly vices, which breeds crime and violence, sports such as football and cricket are barely surviving while boxing is dead.
Destroying their lives
Having produced so many great boxers over the years, to include our last world champion, Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, it is rather sad to see so many young men, who could punch their way to fame and fortune, destroying their lives, fighting each other in the streets in a never-ending cycle of death and destruction.
In looking at the demise of boxing, I find it most disheartening as it could have been otherwise, had our public officials done enough to save the sport. In April 2015, former mayor of Montego Bay, Glendon Harris, raised much hope for boxing when he announced that a boxing gym would be constructed on the grounds of the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
"We have identified the area where it will be constructed; persons from the SDF (Sports Development Foundation) have been down there recently and I have given them the drawings for where the facility will be placed," Harris said at the time. "Construction of the facility is expected to begin later this year and it should be completed within 12 months."
Sadly, for reasons nobody has explained, three years have elapsed since Harris made that announcement but nothing has been heard or seen of the promised boxing gym, which he said former Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, had endorsed and the SDF was committed to funding.
Hopes were again raised about a boxing gym for St James in October 2015 when the then government of Jamaica announced that it would be building a boxing gym in the parish to honour Walters, who had brought much glory to Jamaica by winning the WBA Super Featherweight title.
World heavyweight champion
In fact, no lesser person than the then Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, gave a directive to the SDF that a gym must be built in the parish of Walter's birth. At the time, Neita-Headley said the gym was a part of the budgetary plan for 2016 and that former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis had promised to help with equipping it.
While former mayor Harris, Simpson-Miller and Neita-Headley no longer hold the offices they once held, I do hope that the plan for the boxing gym can be found, dusted off and reactivated. As I stated above, I believe with so much pent up anger in our young men here in St James, a gym could transform them into world class boxers.