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Boxing gym would be better way to honour Hill

Government thought it was "the right thing to do" by erecting a statue in honour of boxer Clarence Hill.

It never was.

The idea has backfired badly — thanks to the humility and graciousness of the very man they wanted to recognise.

Doing the right thing has never been this Government's forte.

It was always a ridiculous plan given that it would set such a dangerous precedent.

And like so many, Hill himself believes the money could be better spent by building a boxing gym which could, given the rise in anti-social behaviour in recent years, be the most worthwhile sports facility on the Island.

It would be appropriate that it bears his name, and perhaps a plaque.

That might satisfy all of those who, despite Hill's criminal record, believe he deserves appropriate recognition for becoming the only sportsman to earn an Olympic medal a bronze at the Montreal Games in 1976.

And it should appease those who were outraged by the proposal that a monument be built to commemorate someone who has led a life of unspeakable crime.

Of course, such a statue may still appear, according to Friday's Throne Speech, at "a location yet to be determined."

But having dug themselves into this hole, Government will have to find a way to climb out. They'll almost certainly have to back down.

And if they don't, they'll have more egg on their face.

What has made this proposal even more contentious, is it appears they didn't consult the man himself.

Would any living person want a statue without being asked first?

A gym would cost far more but Government will have to heed Hill's advice in some form.

The Sports Ministry, under the direction of 'Mr Fix It' Glenn Blakeney, must attempt to persuade the public and the corporate sector that such a facility could go a long way to taking troublesome youths off the street and instil the discipline which boxing has turned around the lives of so many of those who were heading for a life of crime and violence.

That doesn't always work as was the case of Hill. A troubled teenager himself in New Jersey, he took up boxing as a way of diverting his energy from the streets to the ring.

He went on to enjoy a successful amateur career and turned professional but when that career was over, he turned to crime and drugs.

He was convicted of various offences and spent time in jail.

That might not have happened had he been given more support, both morally and financially by the previous Government, on his return from the Olympics.

In an interview with this newspaper he showed remorse and insisted he's turned his life around.

Those who attend church with him agree. They say he's a changed man.

What would be better now than to find a facility where he could help coach and perhaps earn the respect of so some many of his critics.

Derelict Admiralty House was once touted as the ideal building to house such a facility but it was another proposal that never materialised.

Hill may still have something to prove but judging from the dozens who have offered their support on both The Royal Gazette website and Facebook this week, there are those who are willing to help.

In the meantime, Government need to rethink how they want to honour those who have excelled in the sporting arena. The Throne Speech suggested that a brick be placed at the National Sports Centre inscribed with the names of those who have represented the Island so admirably in international events. It's an excellent idea with Hill included.

But if he's considered worthy of a statue, there are so many others too — enough to line the length of Front Street.

Footballers Clyde Best and Shaun Goater, sailors Peter Bromby and Penny Simmons, athletes Brian Wellman (world indoor triple jump gold medallist), Clarence (Nicky) Saunders (Commonwealth high jump gold medallist), equestrian MaryJane Tumbridge (Pan-Am Games gold medallist), cricketer Alma (Champ) Hunt, to name but a few. All of those mentioned have been recognised overseas more than they have in their own country, certainly more than Hill.

Indeed, Troy Darrell, who was trained by the legendary Angelo Dundee and considered one of the best in North America in his weight class, might have been considered pound for pound a better boxer.

They've all been role models and sadly, because of his criminal record, Hill can't be included in that category.

But a boxing gym where he could impart his knowledge of the sport, could change that and change the lives of those who could be heading down the same path that destroyed his life.

It's unlikely anyone would contest giving him a second chance.

What was particularly baffling by Government's decision was that no one was clamouring for a Hill statue. Their pre-election gesture caused exactly the kind of controversy they were trying to avoid.

Now they can only save face by listening to Hill — something they should have done in the first place.


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Published November 09, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated November 08, 2012 at 6:24 pm)

Boxing gym would be better way to honour Hill

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