Former Contenders happy with boxing return
Three former Wray and Nephew Contender fighters are delighted that regular boxing has returned to the island, with the recently launched Wray and Nephew Fight Nights that commenced last Saturday in Olympic Gardens, St Andrew.
The Contender series ended in 2018, and since, Jamaica has not had any major boxing competition. According to two-time champion Sakima 'Mr Smooth' Mullings, boxers questioned the absence of the sport on the island.
"I have a lot of young fighters around me and a lot of fighters that have been training over the years, who have been waiting their turn," he said.
Contender's semi-finalist Richard 'Frog' Holmes said he is elated and hopes the competition will remain active.
"I like the presentation so far. Basically, we needed boxing back in Jamaica to revive boxing," Holmes said. "It keeps the boxers active (and) shows their talent. These guys are some young, promising fighters, so we need competitions like this to expose all the boxers, even amateurs."
Contender's 2017 finalist Tsetsi 'Lights Out' Davis said he hopes the return of boxing will spark changes in the Jamaican youth, as he likes that the competition is being hosted within the communities.
"They say 'gloves over guns' and I like to know that they take up boxing more than the gun because young people are dying," Davis said as he expounded on the violent realities of the Jamaican youth.
"I want the next fight to be at GC Foster, Spanish Town, because I can get in some youngsters," he said, listing several neighbouring communities in the area. "I would want the youths to see it and say they can make something out of boxing because we have a lot of talented youths in St Catherine."
Mullings agrees that this initiative will do well for the Jamaican youth.
"When you go into communities like these, it creates opportunities for other young people to show them that there are other pathways that they can get involved in, which will give them purpose and be celebrated in their communities," Mullings said.
However, all have an international vision for Jamaica and believe that several necessary steps need to be taken for Jamaica to get back to top-performing international standards.
"More competitions like this. Get the gyms up to standard and get the youth more encouraged to do boxing because about four to five years there has been no boxing," Holmes said.
"You have to have support and sponsorship to get back the love of boxing," Davis added.
"It would take a lot. You need fighters to come into boxing from a young age, so they can develop over their career. We need quality coaching. We have to improve our infrastructure, better gyms and have regular scheduled competitions like this and even smaller competitions.
"We need fundraising because all of this takes money. Then we would need an international team representing Jamaica. Then you will see amateur boxing improve, and then you would have a platform to build professional boxing in Jamaica," Mullings outlined.
The next Fight Night competition will be in five weeks in Denham Town.