Young boxers preparing for Pan American games
Ricardo Blackman Jr and Kimberley Gittens have quite a few things in common.
They love to box, are members of the Barbados Defense Force Sports Programme (BDFSP), are 23 years of age and are coached by the same trainer in Gary Bowen.
More importantly though, they’re also two of Barbados’ brightest amateur boxing prospects.
Having represented the island at several regional and international meets, both pugilists are gearing up for the upcoming Pan American Games in Toronto, which will be held July 10 to 26.
They warmed up for that competition with convincing victories against their overseas opponents at the recently concluded Horace Phillips Memorial tournament.
According to the slimly built Blackman Jr, boxing was always in his blood, as his father Ricardo “Brown Bomber” Blackman also represented Barbados in boxing.
“I was born into boxing. I practically grew up in the gym because my father was always there,” the flyweight boxer readily pointed out.
“The fact that he was a boxer has really helped me in my career because he is always there to help me out. My father has been very instrumental in helping me to get as far as I have.”
A product of The Lodge School, Blackman Jr has represented the island in numerous competitions including Junior Commonwealth, the Caribbean Games, Commonwealth and Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC).
Since stepping into the ring at the age of 11, Blackman Jr said his two most memorable moments took place at successive Ronald Wilson Memorial tournaments where he not only won gold medals, but also took home the award for best boxer on both occasions.
He said one of his biggest goals is to qualify for the Olympics.
“As a Barbadian I know it will be extremely difficult to qualify for the Olympics, but I believe once I continue to work hard and my boxing improves, anything is possible,” Blackman Jr explained.
For Gittens, it was a much different storyline which led to her becoming involved in boxing.
She revealed that she became interested in boxing during her time as a student at Coleridge and Parry.
“I got introduced to the sport through the school system. Gary Bowen who is both the national coach as well as my coach at the BDFSP would come to my school once a week to teach boxing.
“Eventually it increased to twice a week and even after I left school he kept encouraging me to continue boxing,” Gittens noted.
While acknowledging she was never very athletic in her younger years she eventually realized she was “pretty tough” and didn’t mind getting hit.
Despite her success to date, which includes silver and bronze medals at the Women’s Continental Championships in 2012 and 2013 respectively, the welterweight pugilist admitted it hasn’t been all smooth sailing.
“My father is a Jehovah Witness so he doesn’t support my boxing. They find the sport very cruel.
“My mum supports me though, even though she gets a bit uneasy sometimes. My grandmother is also supportive but she can’t bear to watch me fight . . . she says she’s too old for that,” she revealed while bursting into laughter.
She disclosed that while she wanted to become the first female boxer to represent the island at the Olympics, she was also in the process of trying to encourage more females to get involved in the sport.
“I want to open a pathway for female boxers in Barbados. I know a lot of females think that boxing is for men only but that isn’t true,” she contended.