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New president wants to focus on the youth

On the button: Richardson, the BBF vice-president, does some pad work with Liam McCaue, 12, from Mount Saint Agnes, at Controversy Gym (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A national youth programme will be set up by the Bermuda Boxing Federation as part of its long-term vision of producing international amateur boxers.

The conveyor belt that churned out a rich cycle of talent such as Clarence Hill, a bronze medal-winner at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Troy Darrell, a middleweight world title contender, and Quinn Paynter, who competed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, has spluttered to a stop in recent years.

With Nikki Bascome still wearing “kid gloves” in terms of his professional career, the only boxer to have continued the Island’s tradition of punching above its weight has been Teresa Perozzi, a former WBA middleweight champion, who retired last year.

Nathan Dill, who was voted in as the new BBF president last month, is confident that the raw ability still exists on the Island and believes it just needs to discovered, polished and nurtured.

“Our push right now is to get a national programme up and running, starting at the grass-roots level with the youth,” Dill said.

“We want to see our boxers compete at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games. No disrespect to the adult boxers but there’s a very slim chance that they will be going to the Olympics.

“We’re trying to groom the youth and we’re trying to get them as young as five. By the time they hit their teenage years they will have had seven years of solid training.”

Located underneath Queen’s Club, Controversy Gym has been chosen as the training hub for the Island’s aspiring young pugilists under the guidance of Leo Richardson, a former amateur heavyweight.

Dill and Richardson both attended last weekend’s Youth Sports Expo at the National Sports Centre, putting on demonstrations and light-hearted sparring sessions for interested youngsters.

“Leo has been doing a great job and Controversy Gym has been the primary place for the youth to get involved in boxing,” Dill said.

“We’re trying to direct the youth boxers to Controversy and then go from there.”

Boxing is replete with stories of troubled youths who have found their feet while studying the “sweet science” and Dill believes the sport is the perfect tool to help combat some of the Island’s social ills.

“I’ve spent ten years working at the Department of Child and Family Services and I’m certified to teach life skills as part of the Arise curriculum,” he said.

“We’re looking to incorporate those type of things into our programme. We don’t want to develop street fighters, we want to develop well-rounded individuals.

“We want to make our young boxers accountable as athletes that represent the sport and community well.”

It has been a turbulent few years for Bermuda boxing, with the previous BBF president, Debra Smith, stepping down under controversial circumstances in May.

Smith’s resignation was the culmination of a long-running feud with the sport’s various stakeholders, whom she accused of flaunting the rules and disrespecting her organisation.

Among those was the Bermuda International Boxing Association, a group that formed last year in protest at the previous BBF administration, which it believed was “defunct and dysfunctional”.

Dill, who served as the vice-president of BIBA, which has merged with the BBF, said the Island’s boxing gyms were now “on the same page” and was looking forward to recapturing the glory days of the Seventies and Eighties when amateur bouts in Bermuda were plentiful and well attended.

“We were told by Government and AIBA [the Amateur International Boxing Association] that there could only be one governing body in Bermuda,” said Dill, whose executive includes Richardson, the vice-president, Leroy Robinson, the acting treasurer, and Lori Burchall, the secretary.

“They told us to work things out, amalgamate the groups and go forward together. We’ve done exactly what Government and IABA asked us to do, and anything to do with boxing will fall under this organisation or it will not be sanctioned.

“We’re optimistic we can go beyond two or three fights a year and have six or seven. We need to have something on the calendar every three months so our boxers have something to work towards.”