Although former World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight Super Champion Nicholas ‘The Axeman’ Walters is yet to formally decide whether he will fight as a featherweight (126 pounds) or super featherweight (130 pounds) this year, it is clear that the various controlling bodies have made up their minds that he is now in the higher weight class.Three of the major controlling bodies in professional boxing, who issued their rankings this week, have placed him in the super featherweight division.He is ranked No. 2 by the WBA, No. 6 by the World Boxing Organization (WBO) and No. 7 by the World Boxing Council (WBC). With these rankings, he can fight for any of these world titles, if his promoters Top Rank, led by Bob Arum, can get the respective champion to agree.Walters won the vacant WBA featherweight title on December 8, 2012 when he defeated Daulis Prescott here in Jamaica by way of a seventh round tko. After two successful defences of that title, he earned super champion status when he stopped Nonito Donaire on October 18, 2014 in the sixth round in Carson City, California. In his first scheduled defence as super champion, however, he faltered.ONE POUND OVERWEIGHTHe weighed in at 127 pounds for his title fight against Miguel Marriaga in New York on June 13, 2015, and that one pound overweight cost him his title and a possible million-dollar fight this year against WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko, which was in the making at that time. He went on to beat Marriaga decisively, however, by way of a unanimous decision, and his stocks remained high.On December 19 last year, he fought American Jason Sosa in the super featherweight, 130-pound class, which was seen as a test fight in that weight category. He looked good, but the fight was ruled a draw. The decision was a controversial one and most commentators stated emphatically that it was their opinion that Walters had won.Walters told The Gleaner after that fight that he felt comfortable fighting at 130 pounds, but also made the point that he could easily have fought at 126 that night. He said, recently, that he and his team would be making the decision early this year as to which weight class he will fight in.The decision seems to have been made for him.Ranked at No. 2 in the 130- pound class by the WBA, he is eligible to fight the Japanese champion in that division, Takashi Uchiyama, in the near future. Uchiyama, who is 36 years old and has a 24-0-1 record, made a successful title defence on December 31, by stopping Oliver Flores in the third round.Walters, who is 29 has a 26-0-1 record and told The Gleaner that he is confident that he will fight for a title early this year.
Looking back at last year’s schoolboy football season, Jamaica College (JC) re-emphasised its imprint on the competition by taking three successive Manning Cup titles. This is a distinction only once achieved in history.This columnist declares interest in that the previous occasion was the 1961, 1962, 1963 trot, started in his final year of a school which churned out three of the nation’s heads of state.Going into the final against perennial arch-rivals St George’s College was a challenge on mammoth proportions. The Jesuit school had rolled over the team from Old Hope Road in the Super Cup final, four goals to nil. In certain quarters, it was seen as humiliating.Take it as you choose, it was a tutorial in basic execution of brilliance, put on by coach Neville ‘Bertis’ Bell-inspired boys in the lighter shade of blue.Coach Miguel Coley, in charge of the JC unit, had been distracted by national duties. However, there were going to be no excuses accepted in-house for that temporary break in his substantive role. The Catholics had to be turned back if a tradition of triumph was to be sustained.In an address to Old Boys’ recently, chief architect in the JC sporting structure and corporate giant, Ian Forbes, summed it up. Himself an old boy, he called the eventual, trophy-deciding one-nil performance as a message to the country.FIGHTING RIVALS”Whether in the classrooms, on the playing fields or in the corporate boardrooms, private or public sector, we must take the fight to our opposing rivals and not let them roll over or conquer us, no matter how frightening the task may be.”Call it late, as the track and field season has started and thoughts are on this Olympic Year. But it was inevitable that Foster’s Fairplay would, at some time, look back at that 4-0, crafted to put the boys from Hope in their place. As to how the comeback to take the Manning Cup, was orchestrated and executed, occupies this column, this week.Enter the passion, belief and commitment of coach Coley. Here was a man steeped in a sporting culture that saw him, at the youthful age of 17, playing basketball, cricket, volleyball, football and doing long jump at Intercol, while attending Mico Teachers College. In 2004, he was named Athlete of the Year. On the soccer field, he “had dreams of one day playing for Manchester United”.Armed with a degree in sports education and a diploma in English and physical education, he had understudied coaching exemplars in Barry Watson (Mile Gully High) and Alrick Clarke (Norman Manley High, where he coupled with teaching duties). Coley referred to Clarke in glowing terms.”I believe coach Clarke was (my) early mentor as he took me to assist him everywhere he coached.”It was in this period that the JC call had come. Given the resultant impact as he became absorbed in the Old Hope Road programme, it would be simple to merely say, ‘and the rest is history’.However, story of the 2015 ‘rise from the ashes’, 1-0, to turn back the St George’s College march, to greater glory, must be told.Coley reminisced. “The four-nil was a catastrophe. It was a tough night. I hadn’t slept based on what took place between Jamaica and Panama (a Reggae Boyz loss). I knew it would be a difficult game, but we were too open and we played right in the hands of a philosophy of outscoring your opponent, as the entire statistic favoured JC except the goal column.”SOUL SEARCHINGHe underwent a period of introspection. He described it as a time to “soul search, dig deep and become stronger as a man”. His confidence never waned.”I was happy that I had time to work with my players before the next game, and I knew things would be way different. But congrats to St George’s, they did what they had to do.”In order to “move from a four-nil”, he took full responsibility. So, “it’s not you, it’s me”, that was what was important.”What was good was that my management staff and school administration had so much belief in my ability to turn things around, and their support intensified. This was the moment for me to see champions brush themselves up and rise with pride.”Therein lay the passion that brought the turnaround. Coley ended the discourse on a special note.”We are one … Fervet family. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP):Nico Rosberg kept the upper hand on his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by setting the fastest time in yesterday’s practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix, as Formula One’s top team dominated again.Rosberg, who won the season-opening race in Australia and the final three races of last season, set a best time of 1 minute, 31.001 seconds at the Sakhir circuit, a quarter of a second faster than Hamilton.”We were very quick on one lap and also on the longer runs, so I’m really looking forward to qualifying and the race,” Rosberg said.Mercedes was in a league of its own, with third-place Jenson Button of McLaren 1.3 seconds off Rosberg’s time. That was an encouraging performance for McLaren, which has been on a slow development path with engine partner Honda since last season.Ferrari, which appears to be Mercedes’ main challenger this season, was further off the pace. Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, followed in sixth by Sebastian Vettel, who was forced to park the car trackside due to a loose nut on his left rear wheel late in the evening session.Ferrari believes it has better pace over longer runs than the brief bursts in practice and qualifying, and also demonstrated much better acceleration from the standing start than Mercedes in the season opener, yet Vettel recognised his rival’s strength.THE BENCHMARK”Mercedes are the benchmark. They have looked really competitive this afternoon and this evening, but hopefully, we can be a bit closer,” Vettel said. “The car feels all right. There’s bits and bobs we can improve.”Max Verstappen was fourth fastest for Toro Rosso, the Red Bull pair Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo was seventh and ninth, respectively, and Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa eight and 10th. Williams is set to use a redesigned front wing today.The heavily criticised rolling elimination format for qualifying will be used again today. The format resulted in an embarrassing anticlimax in the final Q3 session in Melbourne as teams sought to preserve tires rather than attempt to improve times. The teams met on race day in Australia and resolved to revert to last year’s qualifying system but could not unanimously agree at the F1 Commission on how to alter it, so rolling elimination remains.Renault driver Kevin Magnussen is facing a grid penalty after failing to stop and have his car weighed when directed to do so during yesterday’s evening practice session.
Promoted Portmore United have their sights set on finishing at least among the top two in the 2015-16 Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL).A top-two finish will ensure that the club qualifies for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship next season. Manager Clive Marshall said yesterday that a return to the CFU championship could open doors to overseas contracts for the players.Speaking at yesterday’s weekly RSPL conference, which was held at the sponsors’ head office on Spanish Town Road, Marshall said: “We want players to get contracts overseas in order for them to be able to better their lives and help their families.”He added: “When the team got demoted two seasons ago, it was our aim to return to the RSPL then qualify for the CFU, and we remain on course for that.”I had also declared back then that the club would be back in top-flight football soon. And that was done,” he emphasised.Portmore finished the preliminary stage of the RSPL on 61 points and earned $1 million for that feat. They will face Humble Lion in the first leg of a two-way semi-final tie on Sunday at the Effortville Community Centre in May Pen, Clarendon, starting at 3:30 p.m.The winners of the tie would be eligible to represent Jamaica in the CFU Club Championship next season.”Well, for us it is about focusing on the semi-finals against Humble Lion. We are confident and will go there for a positive result,” he said.Portmore United and Tivoli Gardens have won the most national titles with five each. With Tivoli out of contention this season, Portmore have the chance to go ahead by winning a record sixth national title.Montego Bay United and defending champions Arnett Gardens will meet in the other semi-final.