In September 1984, when I arrived in Bermuda, I found a police service that was actively engaged in a wide range of sporting activities. In those days, the service was recruiting young, single men in their early twenties, from the UK and the Caribbean, in addition to local recruiting drives. As a result, the training school was fertile ground for sporting teams looking for new blood. In fact, during the job interviews that were conducted in London, the Bermuda Police top brass asked potential recruits about their sporting abilities, looking themselves to bolster the football, cricket and rugby teams, in particular. But is was the Bermuda Police Boxing Section that ended up recruiting me.
In the mid-eighties, the police boxing team was very active. Since 1979, the team had been competing bi-annually against the Massachusetts State Police (USA), with a home and away leg each year. Subsequently, a similar bi-annual tournament had been arranged with the Denver Police Department (USA) , again with home and away legs each year. In addition, there were occasional Inter-Services tournaments in Bermuda, that matched up boxers from the police, the fire service, the Bermuda Regiment, and the US and Canadian armed forces, from their respective bases in Bermuda. But the most prestigious, and most popular, boxing event of the year was the Annual Evening of Boxing.
The Annual Evening of Boxing was the longest-running boxing event, having its humble beginning in 1969, in the small and cramped hall of the Police Recreation Club in Prospect. Its popularity outgrew 200-person capacity of the club, so in 1979 it moved to the Empire Room – the largest ballroom in the Southampton Princess Hotel (subsequently the Fairmont Southampton), where crowds of 800 gathered every year. This was an exclusively all-male event, with a mandatory dress code of Mess Dress or black tuxedos and bow-ties (no fancy colours permitted). Attendees often drank champagne and smoked cigars, so the event was sometimes called the ‘Police Smoker” and the air was thick with cigar smoke, to the detriment of the boxers. All of the boxers were drawn from the ranks of the Bermuda Police. Many of the bouts were challenge matches, often made under duress in the bar, or under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, it was almost a rite of passage to box in the annual event at least once – so a good number of total novices would get their first taste in the ring at this annual event. The Police Cadet School usually ensured that some of its young cadets participated. The rugby team often generated a few bouts between its members. And some of the bouts were comprised of the more experienced boxers within the ranks. The Annual Evening took place in December each year and it was one of the premier sporting events on the Bermuda calendar.
Within the first few weeks of arriving in Bermuda, I was committed to box in the Annual Evening, just a couple of months later. In typical fashion, the agreement was made in the Police Club.
In the UK, I had played basketball for the Humberside Police team. When I arrived in Bermuda, there was no police basketball team, so I quickly formed one and we participated in the local basketball league. Russ Matthews had moved to Bermuda on the same training intake as me, and played on the basketball team with me. So we were colleagues, team mates and friends.
As I recall, Russ and I had attended one of the local boxing events that featured the police team and were in the bar subsequently, discussing the bouts we had seen. I think we commented that the standard of one or two of the bouts wasn’t very good. We were rebuked by retired Sergeant Bill “Spider” McKenzie, a stalwart supporter of the boxing team and a fixture in the bar. He said something along the lines of “If you think it is easy, you should give it a go yourselves.” Russ and I looked at each other and decided we would have a go. So, just like that, we had committed to box each other in December. There was no animosity between us, no drunkenness, no arm-twisting. We just thought we’d give it a try. We would later end up being regular team-mates on the Police Boxing Team.
Having committed to box in the event, I threw myself into training at the twice-weekly training sessions at the Cadet School. During one of the training sessions, I was in the ring, sparring with local boxer Quinn Paynter. Quinn was a very handy boxer, who would go on to compete in the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and then turn professional. Quinn put a solid shot on my nose, inducing a nose bleed. Greg Hopkins was supervising the sparring. I told him that I couldn’t breathe through my nose but he just waved me off, telling me that it was just a bit of blood! They were tough days back then. It transpired that the blow had deviated my septum – split the cartilage in my nose – causing it to totally block both nasal passages. I couldn’t get any air in or out of my nose! I would subsequently undergo two surgical procedures to remove all of the cartilage from my nose – but I would have to compete in my first bout whilst unable to breathe through my nose!
1984 Annual Evening of Boxing
As the event drew closer, it became clear that the organisers had managed to sign up enough boxers to make up a full night of action. The 1984 Annual Evening of Boxing was scheduled to have 14 bouts. Amongst the participants were Dave Arrowsmith and Nigel Brock, who were on the same training course as Russ and I. They too would go on to fight on the police team.
On the night, it turned out that Russ and I were very evenly matched. Each of the three rounds were closely contested, so we stood in the ring after the final bell, awaiting the judges decision. I thought I had done enough to win and one judge agreed with me, but Russ came out on the winning side of a split points decision. You can watch a video of the bout below. The quality isn’t the best, as it has been rescued from an old, mouldy VHS tape.
For those who are interested in seeing the other bouts from this event, I have provided links below. The video has been edited for time, so highlights from each bout are featured. The video is divided into three parts due to file size requirements.
Part one (below) features: Sandford Seepersad v Stephen Rossiter; Fitzroy Fisher v Leo Simmons; Dave Arrowsmith v Nigel Brock; Martyn Davidson v “Guppy” Young; Keith Senior v Kevin Reeves; and Craig Morfitt v Russ Matthews.
Part two (link below) features: Rai Harison v Merv Dickinson; Larry Dean v “Shinah” Simons; John Jones v Chris Jones; Steve Tully v Ian Matthews; Mike Lawler v Kevin Buxton.
Part three (link below) features: Mark Jones v Terry Trott; Alan Gorbutt v Andy Boomer.
With that maiden bout out of the way, I decided to continue with the sport and headed back to the gym to improve my skills and fitness. My commitment and interest got me onto the Bermuda Police team and I represented the service twice during 1985.
In May 1985, Bermuda hosted the team from the Denver Police Department. If my memory serves me well, my opponent was Willie Rowntree. In the first round, I found out what ‘seeing stars’ is like, after being caught with a big shot. I’d never experienced it before, or since, but my head was spinning and those stars were dancing around my head. I think it spurred me into action, because I won the bout by a KO (in the second round, I think). That evened up my record to 1-1.
Later in 1985, I got to experience my first overseas boxing tour, as we travelled to Worcester, Massachusetts, to take on the Troopers. As you can see from the following newspaper clipping, our new-look squad had a very successful tour. We won the first five bouts on the way to taking an overall 7-3 victory. For my part, I was in the opening bout, in what was described as “perhaps the best contest of the night” winning a split-points decision over Rick Walanski. That boosted my record to 2-1.
Back in Bermuda, training continued year-round, getting prepared for future events. We were fortunate to have the occasional assistance of Bermuda’s professional boxer Troy Darrell. Troy boxed out of New York, under famed trainer Angelo Dundee (who had also trained Muhammed Ali). When Troy was back in Bermuda, he occasionally came to the Cadet School and helped with the coaching. In the photos below, you can see Troy working with me on the pads (aka focus-mitts).
1985 Annual Evening of Boxing
December 1985 brought another Annual Evening of Boxing. For this event, I had been challenged by rugby player Dave Barrie. I have no idea why he challenged me. Perhaps he didn’t like me, or perhaps he just thought that he could beat me. I don’t know. He outweighed me but had no prior boxing experience, so when I was informed of the challenge I was happy to accept.
The newspaper reported that “a much-improved Craig Morfitt proved too much of a handful for newcomer Dave Barrie” as I boxed my way to a unanimous points decision. Only the first two rounds of the bout survived the transfer from mouldy VHS tape to DVD. You can view those rounds below.
Video from 12 of the 14 bouts survived, so I have edited a compilation from the event, divided into three parts due to file size.
Part one (below) features: Leonard Aitken v Elliot Pitcher; Leo Simmons v Sandford Seepersad; Alan Johnston v Meiron Roberts; Andy Wright v Tim Roper.
Part two (link below) features: John Tartaglia v Russ Matthews; Ian Matthews v Nigel Brock; Robert Hinds v Dave Arrowsmith; Michael DeSilva v Stephen Rossiter.
Part three (below) features: Sam Hall v Milton Douglas; Danny Matthews v John Hoefkens; Randy Vaucrosson v Paul Wright; George Pearson v Andy Boomer.
It is notable that this event featured a cadet who would become Commissioner (M. DeSilva) and a constable who would become Deputy Commissioner (P. Wright).
1986 Bermuda Police v Massachusetts State Police
I believe that both of my bouts against Trooper Chris Holmes took place in 1986. If so, the first of those bouts would have been in the first half of the year in Massachusetts. I came out the winner in that bout.
My second bout against Chris Holmes came later that year, in Bermuda at the BAA Gym. I won the bout with what the newspaper called a “polished” and “clinical destruction” that was “one of the few highlights”. The win took my record to 5 wins and one loss. The judging by the American judge attracted sharp criticism, as he scored nine of the ten bouts for his Troopers (I was the only Bermuda boxer to get the nod from him).
1986 Annual Evening of Boxing
In December 1986, I was matched against Gary “Guppy” Young for the Annual Evening of Boxing. It wasn’t a challenge match. I think the committee believed we would make a competitive bout, as we were both now experienced boxers. Guppy had a reputation for a fearsome left hook, which I had witnessed in his two-punch demolition of Martyn Davidson at the 1984 Annual Evening (see video link above). That was believed to be the fastest knockout in Bermuda Police boxing history (said to be 10 seconds). And Guppy was a southpaw. To avoid becoming another victim of that left hook, I had to take a more cautious approach and adapt my style to cater to a southpaw. That meant trying to keep my left foot on the outside of his right foot, and throwing a lot of right-hand leads. The newspaper said that I was arguably the most-improved boxer “but it was an unusually cautious Morfitt who bobbed and weaved his way to a decision”. That bout took my record to 6-1. At the awards ceremony after the bouts, I was awarded the Dr. John Gourlay Trophy for the Most Valuable Boxer of the Year.
1987 Annual Evening of Boxing
1987 was a much quieter boxing year for me. In the early part of the year I was travelling around the world for six weeks, so perhaps I missed an event. In September, Hurricane Emily wrought destruction on the island and led to the cancellation of the planned visit by the State Troopers. As a result, my only bout that year came at the Annual Evening of Boxing, and it was a re-match with Russ Matthews.
In the three years since our first bout, we had both fought on the police team several times and were both much improved since our novice debuts. It was an opportunity to seek revenge for the only loss on my record, to that point. As expected, it was another closely contested bout. Russ got the honour of being the only boxer to put me onto the canvas, albeit only onto one knee. He hit me with a solid punch to the jaw that temporarily buckled my leg and caused me to take an involuntary knee. But I gathered myself and got back into the action. The fight went the distance and, once again, I thought I had done enough to win the decision. Yet, once again, Russ got the split-decision, handing me my second loss and taking my record to 6-2. The quality of the bout was recognised by the judges and was deemed to be the Fight of the Night.
1988 Bermuda Police v Massachusetts State Police
Police manpower shortages in early 1988 prevented the team from travelling overseas, so my first bout that year was in September, when the Massachusetts State Police paid a visit to Bermuda.
Sadly, an element of gamesmanship had entered into the matchmaking process, due to the desire to win the small Dewars Trophy and the accompanying bragging rights. It was an unnecessary intrusion into what should have been a friendly tournament. However, the Troopers argued that they had two boxers who wished to compete and, as the Bermuda team was unable to field suitable opponents for them, those boxers should be granted wins without stepping into the ring. As a result of this unsavoury argument, it was agreed that the Troopers would start the event with a 2-0 advantage. On the night, we let the gloves do the talking and, when the dust settled, we won a come-from-behind victory.
Tony Mouchette dominated the first bout to take a win over Paul Hazelrigg. Then I took to the ring in what might have been my most dominant ring performance. Whilst my opponent, Fran Leahy, had a 25 pound weight advantage, he had to take two standing-eight counts in round one. I knocked him to the canvas in the second round, forcing another standing count. He gamely wanted to continue but, after another right to the head, referee Gerry Lyons stepped in, to stop the contest in round two. So, after the first two bouts, we had evened up the tournament. My record was now 7 wins and 2 losses.
You can see a video of my bout by clicking below.
The Troopers took the next two bouts, but Steve Donnelly put in a strong performance to beat Charlie Murray. Russ Matthews then fought well to take a victory over Dennis Brooks, who had been responsible for the only two losses on Russ’ record. With the scores tied, everything fell to Milton Douglas in the final bout. Milton edged out a split-points decision so that, despite giving away two free ‘wins’, Bermuda won the tournament and the Dewars Trophy.
In the video below, you can see parts of the bouts between Tony Mouchette v Paul Hazelrigg; Paul Hurley v Tim Donnelly; and Gary Osborne v Rick Brown. The tape of the other bouts didn’t survive.
Bermuda Police v Denver Police
One of my next fights was a points win over Denver’s Eric Gomez, at the BAA Gym in Bermuda. The team won the night’s event with 6 wins against 3 losses, giving an aggregate win for the home-way competition, with a total of 10-8.
I don’t have a record of it, but there was an additional bout in which I represented the Bermuda police team against another police department. Whenever and wherever that bout was, it took my fight record to 9 wins and 2 defeats. From that point onwards, I effectively semi-retired from amateur boxing, due to prevailing circumstances.
There had been a sea-change in recruiting practices within the Bermuda Police, that had a knock-on effect for the boxing team. A government decision was taken to cease all overseas recruitment, in an attempt to Bermudianise the service. Young recruits from the UK and Caribbean had bolstered the boxing team for many years, and suddenly there were none to pick from. Subsequently, the government agreed to resume overseas hiring, but the parameters changed. Instead of recruiting young officers in their 20’s, the focus shifted to older officers who had acquired specialised skills that could be passed on to Bermudian officers. Whilst we again saw recruits from the UK and Caribbean, they were in their late 30’s or older. They had no interest in climbing into a boxing ring. In order to continue the tournaments with Massachusetts and Denver, we needed to be able to field 8-10 boxers. We just didn’t have the numbers, so we were unable to continue with the tournaments.
Caribbean Amateur Boxing Association
With only a handful of available boxers, we began to look for other opportunities to participate, that would not require us to field a full team of boxers. I made contact with Kathy Harper-Hall, the Secretary of the Caribbean Amateur Boxing Association. We were invited to send boxers to participate in the Caribbean Championships, but we knew that we were not at the level of open-class boxers. In the Championships, boxers are placed into a bracket and, each time they win a bout, they advance to the next round to take on another opponent. This meant that boxers could be matched against current champions and Olympic boxers. I explained to Kathy that we weren’t at that level and that we had only competed against other police officers. She then suggested that we participate in one of their ‘friendship tournaments’ that included boxers from various Caribbean countries, but with boxers being matched with someone close to their experience.
So, in 1991 we decided to send some boxers to a ‘friendship tournament’ in Barbados. It had already been 2-3 years since I had last boxed so I was, by then, semi-retired from the sport. But, as the Chairman of the Section, I agreed to ‘lead from the front’ and take another bout, if there was a suitable opponent. During my communications with Kathy, she expressed doubts about whether there would be an opponent for me. She said that there was a young man from Barbados who was in my weight class, but she expressed concerns that I might be too experienced for him. What a joke that turned out to be! I reminded her that I was in my 30’s and that I would be quite happy to attend as the team manager, without an opponent. She said that she would ‘take a chance’ and match me against this young man.
I think we had four boxers in the group, plus coaches and some spectators. Our contingent set off from Bermuda but a flight delay meant that we missed our connection to Barbados and wouldn’t be able to fly there until the following day (October 31st). That meant we would miss the first night of the two-day tournament. As a result, the organisers ensured that all of the Bermuda boxers were scheduled for the second night of competition.
We arrived at the venue for the fights and began to get ready. In the changing room, one of the boxers asked me who I was competing against. When I told him, I was informed that my opponent was the current Caribbean Champion. He had KO’d his opponent in the first round the night before and was being groomed to compete in the upcoming 1992 Olympics! I was annoyed, to say the least. I had emphasised to Kathy that none of the Bermuda boxers were ready to compete in the Caribbean Championships. It would therefore stand to reason that none of us were ready to be matched against the Caribbean Champion. But I was learning this in the changing room, a short time before the bout.
I went ahead with the bout, but I was totally outclassed. I was getting hit with combinations that I didn’t even see coming. And we were wearing 8-ounce gloves – not the padded 16-ounce gloves that we were accustomed to. He was fast and accurate – after all, he was the Caribbean Champion! The refereeing at that level was quite strict, so whenever I was hit by a series of punches without responding, I was given a standing-eight-count. I was annoyed at receiving the counts at the time, but I think they saved me from taking unnecessary punishment. Once I had received three of those standing counts in round one, the rules say that is the end of the bout. I had been TKO’d in the first round. It was the only fight on my record where I didn’t go the distance. The following day, I went to see a doctor to get my ear checked, as it was bothering me. I had a small perforation of the ear-drum! That loss was a signal to me that it was time to hang up the gloves, with a record of 9 wins and 3 losses.
Our other boxers didn’t fare very well against the open-class boxers either, but Russ Matthews perhaps put up the best performance of our group. It had certainly been a learning experience for us and we realised that future participation in the Caribbean was probably not on the cards. But we did enjoy the rest of our time in Barbados, before heading home.
A Shift to Karate
In the early 1990’s, having hung up my boxing gloves, I decided to try my hand at martial arts. I opted to study Goju-Ryu, an Okinawan style of karate, at the Bermuda Karate Institute, operated by O-Sensei Skipper Ingham. I wasn’t long into my training before I gravitated to the lessons run by Sensei Kent Simmons. Kent was a larger-than-life character who made the training sessions enjoyable, whilst working us hard. He also ran classes in the mornings as well as the evenings, which suited me well as I was working a variety of shifts.
I attended training regularly, and would sometimes participate in two classes per day. I also competed in a variety of local tournaments, both for kata (forms) and kumite (sparring), acquiring a collection of trophies and medals along the way. I earned my first black belt in December 1997. In June 2000, I was awarded the rank of Sandan – third degree black belt.
Sometime later, Sensei Kent decided that it was time to break away and start up his own school. Along with a couple of other students, I decided to leave the Bermuda Karate Institute and join Kent, at the Dojo of the Free Spirit.
I took a break from sporting activity from early 2004 to early 2006, as I was studying for my Masters degree. After obtaining my degree, I resumed karate training with Kent, but then had to get knee surgery to clear out some damaged cartilage. I had similar surgery on the other knee during the 1990’s and I was back training in the dojo within ten days. This time, with my body at least ten years older, recovery was not nearly so fast, taking several months to heal. Whilst unable to train, I turned my attention back to the Police Boxing Team.
Back to Boxing
In 2006, the Police Boxing Section was still struggling to attract police officers into the sport, although we did have a few. At that time we had also attracted several aspiring boxers from the local community who wanted to train at the Police Gym and box under our banner. By then, there were two other local boxing gyms on the scene – Controversy Gym and Rego’s Gym. The Teachers Rugby Club was promoting an annual boxing event as a fund-raiser for their club, that featured several rugby players as well as some of the local boxers. The Amateur Boxing Association also put on occasional events. We started to look at other opportunities to get our small group of Police Gym boxers into the ring.
2006 Tour to London
I made contact with the Metropolitan Police in London, who operated a community boxing club, and they expressed an interest in including our boxers in one of their events. Unlike our earlier competitions with Denver Police and Mass State Police, we would not be required to field a full slate of boxers. The event would comprise several different clubs, so each club could submit names of whatever boxers they had in the hope that matches could be made. So, in July 2006, we took a team to London that included seven boxers, from Police Gym and Controversy Gym, along with coaches and a few spectators.
The event was held under a big tent on the grounds of a police sporting club. Unfortunately, I don’t have any records or photos from that event, but it went well. The young Bermudians particularly enjoyed their trip to London. The trip coincided with the 2006 FIFA World Cup, so some of us got to watch the England v Portugal game inside a London pub. A small group of us even travelled up to Donington Park for a couple of nights, to watch the MotoGP motorcycle racing. It had been a very enjoyable tour but we didn’t repeat it – I suspect because of the cost involved in flying a group to the UK.
2006 Black Tie Boxing – Bermuda v UK and USA
After our successful tour to London earlier in the year, we invited the Metropolitan Police to bring a boxing team to Bermuda in October. Their visit would bring a return to the format of our Annual Evenings of Boxing, but with some changes. The Section had not hosted such an event for several years, as it had become impossible to attract enough officers to make up sufficient bouts. If we were to resurrect the event, we would have to incorporate boxers from the local community and from overseas.
Whilst the Annual Evening had, since its inception, been restricted to men only, we felt that such an approach could no longer be justified. We wanted to open up the event to women. And not only as spectators. Times had changed to the point that we now had women boxers in the gym, so we would also welcome ladies between the ropes. As there would be some significant changes, instead of promoting the event as the Annual Evening of Boxing, we used the name Black Tie Boxing.
The dress code for the Annual Evening had always been strictly ‘Black Tie’. We retained the formal dress code – Mess Dress or tuxedos for the men and formal gowns for the ladies. And attendees would continue to be seated at tables with waiter service.
The Metropolitan Police brought over eight boxers and they were joined by one boxer from the Mass State Police and one from the Worcester PD in Massachusetts. The combined Bermuda team was made up of boxers from Police Gym and Controversy Gym. There was only one police officer on the Bermuda team – Asaph Rawlins. Of the ten bouts, three of them featured women boxers.
For this first Black Tie event that included women, we had Bermuda’s professional middleweight World Champion, Teresa Perozzi, as one of the commentators along with former Bermuda Police officer Jeff Baron. I took on the role of MC for the night, and also commentated the first bout, prior to Jeff taking over.
We had ten bouts on the card, and most were closely contested battles. Four of them resulted in split-points decisions. When the dust settled, the Bermuda team won four bouts and the UK/US team won six.
After the intermission, the Bermuda Sanshou Association gave a three-round demonstration of their form of kick-boxing.
I am providing video footage of each of the bouts below, divided into smaller batches.
Part 1 (below) features the team introductions and two of the womens’ bouts: Rachael Sousa (Police Gym) v Lucy Hall (Met Police); and Robyn Swan (Police Gym) v Kerry Bonami (Met Police).
Part 2 (below) features: Tony Suhartono (Police Gym) v Gary Lever (Met Police); Tom Healy (Controversy Gym) v Shaun McGrath (Met Police); and Bruno Parker (Controversy Gym) v Lawrence Morrow (Met Police)
Part 3 (below) shows the Sanshou demonstration, featuring Reuben Bean, Nathan Dill, Otero Smith, Garon Wilkinson, Khalid Pitcher and Jamal Woolridge.
Part 4 (below) features: Jameela Daniels (Controversy Gym) v Kristin Glanton (Mass State Police); Mark Dunlop (Controversy Gym) v Brad Scott (Met Police); and Reese Simpson (Police Gym) v Andrew Cravedi (Worcester PD).
Part 5 (link below) features: John Tindall (Police Gym) v Ben Pruin (?) (Met Police); and Asaph Rawlins (Bermuda Police) v Barry Hart (Met Police).
2007 – Police Gym visits Massachusetts
In March 2007, we took two non-police members of Police Gym to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, to participate in an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Massachusetts State Police Boxing Team. The event involved boxers from Bermuda, Denver, New York and Massachusetts. Sixteen year old Nikki Bascome, in his first amateur bout, took on Brandon Brunell of the Uptown Gym in Southbridge. Nikki lost on points that day, but has gone from strength to strength and is now a professional boxer. Bermuda’s other representative was Daniel Burgess, who was in his second bout against Detective Tony Huskey, a raw novice from the Denver Police Department. Huskey had no answer for Daniel’s multi-punch combinations and received three standing-eight counts from the referee, before the bout was stopped in the first round. As Burgess was leaving the ring, one of the judges commented to his corner-men that he was the most polished boxer of the event – pretty high praise for a young man who only started boxing training in December 2006.
2007 Black Tie Boxing
Following the success of the new-look Black Tie Boxing in 2006, we decided to repeat the event in 2007. Instead of the Metropolitan Police team, we reached out to New York and were able to bring in a combined team from the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). This would be the first time that either of these departments had participated in Bermuda.
In another change to the event, we had a dance floor installed in one section of the ballroom and hired a DJ to provide dance music, so that the attendees could enjoy themselves until 2.00am, after the boxing had concluded.
Some last-minute injuries resulted in some shuffling of the schedule, but the event saw nine bouts, six of which were Bermuda v New York. The Bermuda boxers came from the Police Gym and Controversy Gym. Those six bouts ended tied, with 3 wins going to Bermuda and 3 to New York. Only three of the boxers were Bermuda police officers. Two of the bouts featured women boxers (one being a Bermuda police officer) and, in an acknowledgment of the quality of the ladies bouts, one of those bouts was later judged to have been the Fight of the Night. The event also included a kick-boxing demonstration by the Bermuda Sanshou team.
I’ve provided an edited compilation of the 2007 Black Tie Boxing below, split into three parts due to file size limitations.
Part one features: Kevin Karane (FDNY) v John Sukas (FDNY; Vanessa Williams (Bermuda Police) v Avita O’Connor (Police Gym); Juan Looby (Bermuda Police v Darren Harvey (Bermuda Police).
Part two features: Daniel Burgess (Police Gym) v Padmir Husseni ? (NYPD); Tom Healey (Controversy Gym) v ? Belton (FDNY); Bermuda Sanshou Association demo.
Part three features: Josh Smith (Police Gym) v Will Hamilton (NYPD); Juliana Destell-Roe (Police Gym) v Kelly Graham (NYPD); Lamar Ingram (Contoversy Gym) v Jack Karane (FDNY); Mark Dunlop (Controversy Gym) v John Ryan (NYPD.
The new look Black Tie Boxing events in 2006 and 2007 had been a success – but they required a lot of work to organise. We had requests to repeat it annually, but the bulk of the work was falling on my shoulders, and with an increasing workload in my paying job, I was reluctant to make the commitment.
Post 2007 Demise
Following the successful 2007 event, the Police Boxing Section struggled to stay active. The change in police recruiting practices was still making it difficult to get police officers into the sport. Further, changes in the administration of the Bermuda Amateur Boxing Association (BABA) were making it increasingly difficult to conduct club-type boxing. The BABA was applying strict international (AIBA) rules to all boxing within Bermuda. Their approach was frustrating the local boxing clubs and, some would say, working to the detriment of the sport in Bermuda.
By 2012, the problems encountered with the BABA even prompted the Police Boxing Section to purchase an MMA-style fight cage. The argument was that, if the BABA was thwarting club-style boxing events, we would instead hold ‘cage fighting’ events that would not be subject to their overview and sanctioning directives. Local martial arts groups had indicated a willingness to rent the cage for events, should we purchase it. However, circumstances changed and, once we had the cage on the island, there seemed to be no demand for it. The problematic management of the boxing association was later replaced by a more amenable group of administrators. By the time I had left Bermuda, the cage had not been used for any events.
Administrating and Officiating
In addition to boxing, I was heavily involved on the administration side of things. Even whilst still boxing, I was a member of the Police Boxing Section committee. I served on the Committee in various capacities, including a number of years as the Chairman.
I also served as a member of the committee of the Bermuda Amateur Boxing Association (BABA), initially in the days when it was run by Vic Richmond and Cleveland Critchlow. Back then, it was a low-key sanctioning body that had the best interests of the sport at heart. I trained to be a judge and a referee during that time and acted in those capacities on a number of occasions.
Along the way, Vic Richmond left the BABA to concentrate on the professional side of the sport. He had created the Bermuda Boxing Commission to fill a need for a sanctioning body for professional boxing on the island.
A new group of administrators were drafted in to operate the BABA and, for a time, I continued to work with the group. To their credit, they brought in an AIBA official to provide training to a wider group of judges, time-keepers and referees. However, elections brought new personalities and their inflexible approach and staunch adherence to international standards for local bouts caused some of the problems that I have already mentioned above. After a few years of frustration with the group, I made the move from the amateur side of officiating to the professional side. I joined Vic at the Boxing Commission around 2012.
Well known professional boxing referee “Smokin” Steve Smoger was brought to Bermuda to officiate in an event, and he provided some training to Commission members in the areas of judging, refereeing and time-keeping. I was subsequently engaged in the role of timekeeper (along with Kenny Simmons) for subsequent professional bouts. Vic had asked me if I would be willing to take over from him as Boxing Commissioner. He was getting older and just wanted to see out the professional career of Bermuda’s World Champion, Theresa Perozzi, before handing over. Sadly, Vic passed away in March 2015, so I had to take over the reins sooner than expected.
I ran the Commission for a little over a year and, in May 2016, I handed over to Oscar Lightbourne, who had been working alongside me on the Commission. I had already retired from the police in 2014. I had travel plans for later in 2016 and was scheduled to emigrate from Bermuda in 2017. It made sense to hand over to Oscar at a time that ensured I would still be available for consultation, if needed, as he settled into the role. The handover was reported by the Royal Gazette newspaper.
I almost forgot to mention the several years that I helped out with coaching at the Police Gym. For a good number of years, the coaching duties have been handled by Kevin “Mannix” Simmons and Charles Wade. I continued to personally train in the gym for many years after hanging up my gloves, up until the point that I left the island. During those years, I would lend a hand with the coaching whenever I could, trying to pass on what I had learned to the younger guys coming up behind me.
Whilst it is all behind me now, you can see that boxing was a significant part of my life between 1984 and 2017. I have lots of very fond memories from this journey, many of which have been refreshed through the process of writing this post. Happy days!