My brother Ray was the real sportsman in the Smith family
This week was a very tough week for me as I was sitting here in England watching Prizefighter (boxing) and memories of my brother Ray Smith came to mind.
Prizefighter is simply eight fighters drawn in a quarter final, semi final and final style. If you lose you are out until there is one champion left. However, it wasn’t Prizefighter that got my attention, it was memories as I sat and had time to reflect on my brother Ray Smith who passed away a few years ago.
For those of you that didn’t know my brother on a personal level I will try to shed some light on who he really was.
Ray grew up like I did playing cricket and football for Wellington Rovers. He would always claim he was the total sportsman in the Smith family as he also played rugby, ran long distance, was a table tennis fanatic, but most importantly was famous for his boxing skills.
In fact, he was so talented at boxing that he became Bermuda’s middleweight champion in the late 1970s early 1980’s.
That was Ray the sportsman, but then there was Ray the character. He was hilarious, a warm man, passionate about whatever he did, genuine, hardworking, A Christian.
Many of the children at Dellwood Middle School would tell you he was a no nonsense type of guy. He loved his work and no matter what he did, his commitment was 100 percent.
Ray had a love for his family, especially his son Christopher. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his son as they had a special bond.
Then there was Ray my number one fan. Ray was a cricket lover and being his baby brother he would often come and watch me play. Many of you probably remember him for his Cup Match antics where he would paint his face light blue and dark blue, screaming from the top of his lungs.
He was more nervous than I when I went to bat, as he thought his job was to always protect me. He was always very protective of me as I remember once my mom was giving me a good spanking and there was Ray crying saying: “Mom don’t hit him, don’t hit him,” until she turned and said “Do you want his licks,” and Ray replied, “No mama No.”
Protective, yes. Stupid, no.
Watching this sort of tournament over the weekend brought tears to my eyes. I started to have flashbacks of the good old days when Ray was around.
There were times the whole family would go to BAA gymnasium to watch boxing. My mother was a keen boxing fan and often screamed to the top of her lungs from round one until it ended, “Hit ‘em Ray, hit ‘em,”, and all I could do was laugh as I was embarrassed.
However, that wasn’t the main entertainment for the night in my opinion. My fondest memories came from the chants from the crowd. The whole gym singing PYC PYC (Pembroke Youth Centre), made me feel like I was in the Big Leagues. The atmosphere was electrifying to say the least.
So enthused from watching my brother I obviously became an avid fan and wanted to be like my brother and box. There were times he would take me in the shed where he would train and let me spar with him.
There is one time I remember clearly. Ray asked me to hit him as hard as I could and not to stop, as he was going to go on his knees and box me and try and make me miss.
Obviously with him on his knees I was thinking I was going to knock his head off, so I sat there throwing punch after punch, several missing and several just hitting his gloves.
So I was feeling brave and said throw some punches back if you can. Within a few seconds he threw one punch into my stomach, not even with a great deal of force, but firm enough that folded me. That one shot alone deterred me from wanting to be a boxer.
Shortly after that my brother was to fight an American by the name of David Sears at BAA. Most of my brother’s training was done at PYC, but when he came home he would always do his extras.
Watching him train with the intensity that he had, most certainly rubbed off on me. I would sit and watch Ray sweating profusely while skipping for 30 minutes, wondering when he would tire. To him that was nothing, as he then went into his routine of shadow boxing. This was to be the fight of his life.
I remember it as if it was yesterday. The atmosphere was exhilarating as there were several bouts in addition to my brother Ray’s and the fans were chanting and stomping their feet.
I have never seen, or played in, an atmosphere like that ever. It was amazing.
When Ray came out in his robe and the fans started chanting I was so nervous. The fight started and in the second round Ray got knocked down for the first time in his career and my mother started screaming: “Get up Ray, get up and knock his head off.”
As he made his way up I could see him look at us and by now I was in tears.
As Sears came in for the knockout Ray tagged him with a right hand, but the round ended.
To make a long story short in round three my brother Ray tagged him with several blows and knocked him out to be victorious. A magical moment in my life at an early age, but little did I know Ray would also have a major impact on my cricketing career.
As we already know Wendell was my mentor, my coach, my idle, but it was Ray who would play with me in the yard from time to time. He was always West Indies, and I was always England. Merely just about ten years old, I can remember batting and he would run in from my fence which was only 15 yards away and bowl as fast as he could. Luckily I had on my cardboard pads with elastic bands and my plastic baseball cap that I used as a helmet. Those were the days!
The icing on the cake was seeing my brother at Cup Match. Ray would walk around the field with a slight limp shouting from the top of his lungs, “Clay Smith, Clay Smith”.
Players ask me how I became so passionate. Well I got that from Ray. With his face painted in light blue and dark blue and his hat with several decorations on it he was what I called a die hard St.George’s fan.
One Cup Match stands out more than all when it comes to Ray and that was in 2004. We were warming up and Ray was chanting, singing, and shouting, as early as 9am in the morning.
All I can remember is going in to bat and I was looking all over for him, but I couldn’t find him. Ray had left!
We had this thing that every time it was a big game and he was around I never made runs so he decided to leave and take a drive to St.George’s.
As he was driving back up I had reached my century. Upon his return he started bragging, chanting saying I was going to break the record and the very next over I was out.
While Wendell and I thought we were the real athletes in the family, Ray would always remind us: “While you two may have become famous or well known I was the real athlete in the family.”
Miss you brother, but I know you are looking down on me from heaven. God Bless.
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