AS part of its comprehensive plan to reinvigorate interest in the sport of boxing, officials from the St. Lucia Boxing Association (SLBA) have recently been visiting secondary schools across the island to scout new talent.
SLBA President David “Shakes” Christopher and Senior Boxing Coach Conrad Fredericks have so far visited the Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary School and Castries Comprehensive Secondary School in the past two weeks.
While at the schools, where they shared information with the students about the popular sport, they were pleased at the overwhelming response from students who expressed great interest in the sport, many of whom have since decided to take up boxing.
Christopher said that despite sports suffering a major setback due to the COVID-19 protocols instituted by local health officials, the Association is nevertheless focusing on keeping boxing alive by offering opportunities to those interested in the sport.
The Association president added that the sport continues to lose many boxers across the Caribbean for several reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic that has halted many contact sports. However, he said Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Saint Lucia are attempting to pilot a one-year programme for especially young male and female boxers.
“We’re currently working towards getting a space at the sports academy in Saint Lucia where we can accommodate up to 20 local boxers with some funding from the International Boxing Association (AIBA),” Christopher stated. “Our hope is that these boxers – secondary school students and unemployed youth — will receive a stipend each month while the Government of Saint Lucia will provide housing and meals. This is in preparation of the Commonwealth Games slated for next year.”
The 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held in Birmingham, England, from July 28 to August 8.
Meanwhile, Coach Fredericks said he saw some potential champions during the school visits. Over the course of his many years in the sport, he has trained junior boxers from various secondary schools, including; George Charles Secondary, Ciceron Secondary, Vide Bouteille Secondary and Gros Islet Secondary.
“I have a lot of respect for Hess Comprehensive Secondary because I saw a crop of youngsters with whom I can work,” he noted. “But Castries Comprehensive Secondary was also amazing and the interest for the sport there is also high. Even Vieux Fort Campus “B”, where I previously trained boxers, has invited me to restart a programme there. So we’ll be going there in the last week of May.”
Fredericks said the current COVID-19 pandemic has caused the gym to shut down regularly. He’s currently training nearly 20 young boxers at the gym at Vigie where all junior and senior boxers must adhere to all COVID-19 protocols, including hand sanitizing and physical distancing. However, he said he expects that number to increase soon as the scouting process continues.