By Neto Baptiste
Former world Jr Middleweight boxing champion and Antiguan, Maurice Hope, has thanked the country’s first prime minister, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr, for the recognition he received from Antigua and Barbuda after winning the world title in March 1979, although he fought under Great Britain’s flag.
According to Hope, Sir Vere who died in June 1999, recognised the achievement as a significant one for the twin-island state.
“He was the prime minister at the time and he recognised the importance of what I did and he was very proud of me and sent for me to come to Antigua, and it was the first time I have ever flown first class, up to now. Not only that, but he put me up and gave Antigua the holiday, so it made me feel real proud. I was very pleased that he recognised what I had to go through and rewarded me for it,” he said.
Hope knocked out Italian-Australian boxer, Rocky Mattioli, in the ninth round of the match in Italy.
The boxer turned coach wants more young Antiguans to learn to fight in England where he has promised to guide and protect them.
“I’ve got no pains, I’ve got no damage, I can still run fast and that is because of boxing. So I am reaping all these benefits now at my age. Plus, I am there [in England] and I am going to look after them. I know how you feel, but trust me, I will be there in their corner and I am going to look after your pickney,” he said.
Hope successfully defended the WBC’s world title on September 25, 1979 by knocking out Mike Baker in the seventh round in London.
He holds a record of 30 wins, 4 losses and 1 draw in 35 bouts, with 24 wins by knockout.