At the inaugural Caribbean Development Boxing Tournament one year ago, victory for Trinidad & Tobago’s Super Heavyweight (+91kg) Nigel Paul was the ideal preparation for his appearance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. For a man who had discovered boxing quite late, it was an unforgettable experience, and as the second edition of the Caribbean region’s biggest boxing tournament gets underway in Barbados, we caught up with Paul to get the lowdown on the region’s boxing prospects, reflect on 2016 and look ahead to the Hamburg 2017 World Championships.
What does participating in the Caribbean Development Boxing Tournament mean for boxers in the region?
Participation in the tournament gives young boxers the opportunity to showcase their talents on the regional stage. Boxing in the Caribbean has come a very long way, even in the relatively short space of time I have been involved. Competitions like this are very important for young boxers, it helps them to keep sharp and work hard, but it also helps the sport by maintaining a hunger for success among these young, upcoming boxers.
What do you remember about your success at the Tournament last year?
What I remember most from my success last year is the feeling of accomplishment and pride in myself. My team worked really hard and we took 18 medals back to Trinidad and Tobago with us.
How much did the country get behind you before and during the Rio 2016 Olympics?
When I qualified for Rio 2016 I was the first super heavyweight (+91kg) to ever represent my country at an Olympic Games. They stood behind me with their full support before, during and even after, knowing how far I had come, so the support was great.
Has that helped more young people discover boxing in the region?
I know for a fact that in Trinidad and Tobago we saw a lot of young people, both male and female, wanting to start boxing with the hope of making it to the next Olympics, so these developmental programs and tournaments are a great way to help us achieve more medals.
How is the development of women’s boxing in the Caribbean?
There are some talented female boxers in the region, but I think they need more tournaments where they are the focus of attention.
AIBA has been developing the sport and promoting grassroots boxing for 70 years, how important is that support in helping the Caribbean NFs to fulfil their potential?
With the help and support of AIBA in bringing up young boxers and developing the sport of boxing in the Caribbean, the potential is limitless. From this level, the Caribbean can produce World Champions just the same as anywhere else in the world.
Who are the young Trinidad boxers we should be looking out for that could go on to make a name for themselves at Tokyo 2020?
To name just a few, I would say keep a look out for Christian McDonald, Justin Parris, Michael Alexander and myself. We are all training at a high level for the next Olympic qualifiers.