NATIONAL boxer, Michael “The Red Wolf” Alexander (64kg) is aiming to secure his long-awaited Olympic debut at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The local pugilist has already begun his training regime alongside TT coaches Reynold Cox and Rawlson Dopwell, and heads into a specialist camp at the Cosmic Boxing Gym, Marabella, on Monday.
Alexander’s journey to Tokyo punches off with the first of two Olympic qualifier events, Olympic Qualifying Tournament – Americas, in Argentina, from March 26–April 3. Only the top five fighters earn automatic qualification. Considering his bronze medal display at the Pan American Games in 2019, Alexander is favoured to be among this elite quintet. However, with the likes of World champion Andy Cruz (Cuba) and Keshawn Davis (USA) among the lot, the 26-year-old will be hoping to evade the pair in the early rounds to increase his qualification chances. If unsuccessful in his first attempt, the talented boxer will have another shot at the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France, from May 13–24. Here, boxers who were unable to qualify at their respective regional meets will have a final chance of booking an Olympic spot.
Prior to Argentina, the ringster’s first preparatory bout gets under way against Cuban opposition at the “Spanish Invasion” tourney on February 1 at the Pleasantville Indoor Sporting Arena. He then leaves TT, on February 19, for the Copa Games, in Dominican Republic and is expected to participate in another contest before his first Olympic qualifier.
“Like every elite athlete, the goal is to medal at the Olympic Games, but I must first qualify,” said Alexander following an intense session at the Hasely Crawford Stadium gym, on Thursday. “I’m focussed on getting in as much training as possible, with emphasis on my technical work and conditioning. I don’t want to peak too fast before competition or too late, so the timing must be just right.”
This is Alexander’s second chance to qualify for the Games, having missed out on the 2016 edition. Since then, the Richplain, Diego Martin, resident has been racking up some impressive performances. In 2018, he captured his second Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games medal, lightweight silver, in Colombia. His first, bronze, coming four years prior in Mexico.
In 2019, the beaming boxer grabbed bronze at the Pan American Games, in Peru, silver at the Caribbean Boxing Championships and also retained his National Championship title to cap off a successful 2019 season.
“I’m trying to paint my picture as an Olympic medallist,” he added. “I was introduced to the sport by an uncle because everyone thought I had too much energy in me as a youngster. I began with an old boxing bag in a garage, in Richplain , then I headed to Tigers Boxing Gym in Port-of-Spain. I never knew I had the potential in me. I kept at it, held on to training, never gave up and here I am today. Mentally, I’m prepared to go the distance.”
Coach Cox believes Alexander has shown mettle throughout the past couple years and can achieve an Olympic slot this time around. With just under eight weeks to prepare for the opening qualifier, Cox has brought in number two ranked Cuban boxer, Jorge Morain, to beef up Alexander’s training. He also insists his student must participate in at least three top-notch bouts to better prepare himself ahead of Argentina.
According to the veteran coach, TT has been competing in boxing at the Summer Games since 1984. However, to date, there has never been a win recorded on the biggest competitive stage for the twin-island republic.
“Having three or four good competitions before the qualifiers is important so he can keep sharp and ready. An Olympic bout win for TT is a highlight, so that’s our first step once we’re there. Qualifying for the Games is no longer our goal, being competitive (there) is. At the World Championships last year, Alexander was able to win two bouts and make his way to the quarter-finals. If we put in the extra work, we can do better than ‘Worlds’,” he said.
Since February 2019, Alexander has been managed by Shevi Hadaway, TT’s first female manager of a male professional boxer. Hadaway has been working assiduously to ensure her athlete stays on top of his game and maintains a strict itinerary, especially at this crucial phase.
She has already been able to secure the services of local fitness nutritionist, Body By Imran, for his supply of nutrition and training supplements and is currently working alongside a top technology firm to document Alexander’s progress throughout the years and beyond. Hadaway has also attained the services of Narissa Nimrod, a specialist doctor, who will join the boxer at all Olympic qualifier events and the Summer Games.
However, as is customary with most Olympic athletes, sponsorship remains Alexander’s biggest fight. “We need to ensure he receives the proper international training and competition,” she stated. “He’s ranked number one locally so there’s no real opposition here and we have to source quality opponents from abroad. He is an amazing athlete and one hundred percent fit. Sponsorship has been coming but we would like to see more of corporate TT coming on board. Michael is talent and we need to harness our athletes so we can get the best for and out of them. We remain optimistic as we go forward together towards the Olympics Games.”