By Neto Baptiste
Boxing coach at the Uprising Boxing Gym, Anthony Severin, has renewed calls for support from both a financial and administrative perspective as the sport continues to struggle under the rule of a near dormant executive.
Speaking on the Good morning Jojo Sports Show, Severin, who operates what is now the lone boxing gym on island, said it has been an uphill battle as he and others try to ready the young boxers for any opportunities that may arise.
“We are still on the journey of making the next world champion come from Antigua, so we are just working hard and doing the best we can. We need more support, there are no programmes, there is nothing set up to say that we can have something for future development. We have seen a lot of youngsters come and go because they haven’t gotten the opportunity and I am talking about raw talent, but it is not harvested or developed for the next level. Even if they do develop like the guys we have, they are not going to the next level like the event in Ecuador right now, but these guys there can compete with any of those guys from there,” he said.
Boxing in Antigua and Barbuda has nosedived significantly over the past 15 years with the national association basically inactive outside of its attendance of local and regional meetings. There has been no national championships in over 10 years while most gyms have closed due to dwindling interest amongst the young athletes.
Severin said it has been a difficult task keeping his guys motivated.
“First of all, it’s the passion because a lot of people or youngsters who gravitate to boxing, it’s because they have the passion for it. It can’t be because you are just doing it as it is not all fun because you get hit, you get knocked down sometimes and you have to get up, brush yourself off and go again, so you must have that passion. In my case, with the passion I have for boxing, the door is always open for them because I’d reach out to them and try to motivate them and tell them they should not give up,” the coach said.
UK-based boxer Alston Ryan, who represented Antigua and Barbuda at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, is the country’s only fighter making waves outside of Antigua.
Ryan won bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, to become first boxer to win a medal at a major games while representing Antigua and Barbuda.
Severin agreed that opportunities similar to the one afforded to Ryan could help the young fighters but believes the association must also provide opportunity for growth here in Antigua.
“I am tired of seeing everybody just sending all of the talent away and I can’t understand what is so hard for us to develop ourselves here. Where it is right now, we don’t want the youngsters to not get the opportunity, so sending Alston away was the best thing for him. Taking into consideration the way it is in Antigua with boxing and not having a proper association, sending the guys away to the different islands to get the experience [is the best option to] take them to the next level. I think what’s going on with Alston is the best thing that could have happened to him, but we still need to develop our sport here,” he said.
The Antigua and Barbuda Boxing Association and some gyms which had been long-time members of the body, have been at loggerheads for some years now. The animosity stems from the fact that there has been no local boxing programme for quite some time, while the association has not had an election in over 10 years.
Meanwhile, a number of influential bodies like the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and the Ministry of Sports have taken a hands-off approach in dealing with the issue.