Former national boxer Jarel Nunes, 23, is determined to pass on the knowledge boxing has taught him to his community of Malabar. Nunes, who hung up his gloves in 2014, said he noticed crime in Malabar was on the rise back then. Although not competitive, he remained involved in boxing through personal training. Keen to make a difference, he went a step further last month by launching the Holistic Boxing Academy.
Nunes said, “My initiative is not really for everyone to become competitive boxers. I don’t mind breeding one or two champions out of Malabar. That would be ideal. It’s really about getting the community involved and getting them to look forward to something. This is me giving back to my community and it will provide employment in many ways."
Nunes said the programme is designed to expand and develop the sport around the country.
“People would be able to get personal training certificates or even a boxing coach certificate. Hopefully when they get these things they can go into other areas and teach others. It’s not about Malabar alone but about growing the sport of boxing throughout the country. I am also a member of the TT Boxing Association (TTBA), recently certified under them and have the full support of the association and the president, Cecil Forde.”
Aided by Malabar YoungStars FC founder Clint Busby, Nunes was inspired to build his boxing ring on Banyan Blvd, Phase 1, Malabar. Despite no corporate assistance, Nunes was undeterred. With some yards of rope, four posts and the recreation ground, the boxing ring was up.
The 14x14 outdoor ring is now an attraction but the boxers are hindered owing to poor lighting. A street light blocked by a huge almond tree leaves the boxers punching in the dark. The boxers train with a tyre punching bag, uppercut bag, 100lb heavy bag, double-end bag and a reflex bag. Some of the items hang from the almond tree while others are removed after each practice session.
Nunes said, “I have ten boxers that are training with the intention of competing and another 15 that come to do it for general fitness and self-defence purposes.
“We intend to collaborate with some colleagues of mine to do a women’s self-defence class."
Reflecting on his amateur career, Nunes said there weren't many opportunities. “Based on the work the TTBA has been doing in collaboration with the national coaches, the opportunities are there and growing now. So I said, let me give the youths an opportunity to reach to a level that I didn’t reach.
“Training is on Monday to Friday and optional weekends. I have a boxer Kyle Salim who is trying to represent the country in the upcoming Pan American games. So every Saturday we train with the national team to get some personal technical training.”
On his own career, Nunes said, ”I could have gone further, unfortunately I was injured in a tournament in 2014 and stopped competing. I went through a period after that competition that I didn’t even watch boxing. Eventually I found my way back into the sport.”
In 2012 he won gold at the National Championships and Caribbean Games. In 2013 he got a bronze medal at the National Championships and ended his career in 2014.
With his eyes focused on developing the sport and Malabar being the epicentre, Nunes has already engaged some stakeholders with the goal of building a permanent structure on the recreation ground to facilitate the programme.
“Of course we have to go through the proper channels to make sure it is done legally. Councillor (Joycelyn) Worrell and MP for the area, Lisa Morris-Julian, have already shown their support. We have also had initial talks with a member of the TT Prison Service to collaborate with them as well. (Ex-Malabar resident) Dexter George has also been helping me with some of the ground work.
“Although it’s a boxing academy, we are using the area as an outlet to focus on the community. We want the community involved, so together we de-escalate the crime situation in the country. We want to touch other communities as well.
“We plan to get to the other communities through a programme called From the Ground Up (FGU), which is an extension of the boxing academy. The communities will then go on to compete against each other. FGU will be a separate non-governmental organisation."
Nunes said the people of Malabar have embraced the initiative.
“We have the full support of the community. They love the attraction and the entertainment. They love the newness of it. It’s something that we don’t have in the east. As a boxer, I never fought in Arima. I would usually go South or Diego Martin. It was always my dream when I fought, to fight in my area. So that was one of the other reasons I wanted to start in Arima."