NATIONAL MIDDLEWEIGHT (75-kilogrammes) boxer Aaron Prince has been waiting over a decade to secure qualification to the Olympic Games.
Owing to the cancellation of the Americas leg of Olympic qualifiers, which was originally scheduled to box off in Argentina this week, the World Boxing Association (WBA) was forced to set up a task force to assess individuals by the current regional rankings.
In the Pan American middleweight division, Prince, a member of the TT Defence Force, was ranked seventh. The recent exit of three boxers from this category propelled him into fourth place and saw the 35-year-old earn automatic qualification to the Summer Games.
His confirmation of a spot now sees him become the fourth TT boxer to qualify for the Games. In 1996, Kurt Sinnette was TT’s first ever Olympic boxer. He was followed by Carlos Suarez (2012) and Nigel Paul (2016) respectively.
Paul, however, is still awaiting confirmation from the international boxing body on his possible qualification.
Although still shocked, Prince was ecstatic.
“I feel great," he said. "Dreams do come through after all. I believe all my years of hard work has paid off. Any person that knows me and the journey I have been on, would agree with me.
“The news is still soaking in. However, just like a soldier, I’m set and ready to move. Shocked, but ready,” he added.
Prince said he was preparing for the Americas leg for some time and believed he could have fought his way into the top four ranks in the Pan Am region. The change in the qualification process, he said, helped pave a way for his reward, for all the work he had put in over the years.
Prince previously trained with Gladiators Boxing Gym before joining up with Defence Force. Ironically, national team coach Reynold Cox is also employed there and the pair have been working together for over three years.
“Training is not going on right now because I need time off from work. When they cancelled the qualifiers, I had to return to work. Now that they changed the qualifications and I’ve qualified, I would now take leave to return back to training.
“I’ve been trying to get to this point for some years now. The pandemic has not affected me negatively but it was an emotional roller-coaster because of uncertainties and fear of no competition,” he added.
Cox was pleased with the boxer’s automatic qualification. He said that Prince has been trying to qualify for the Games since the 2008 edition in Beijing, China.
Cox said, “In 2016, he was one bout away from qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro Games and he lost to a really good English boxer. To come (five) years after (and qualify) shows his determination and commitment to stick with the sport.
“He performed well at previous Central American and Caribbean Games and Pan American Games so he was able to get that position. His selection was justified. This is not something that happens overnight,” continued Cox.
According to Cox, at the 2019 Pam Am Games, Prince led all his scorecards before injury struck and he was unable to continue to fight. This made him just miss out on the bronze medal.
Cox said Prince’s qualification is a definite sign that local boxing is progressing in the right direction.
“This is a show of our (TT’s) development. We have secured Olympic spots for the last three Games in a row and it’s a very significant achievement for any sporting federation,” he added.
Cox, however, was a bit disheartened that recovering national boxer Michael Alexander would be unable to compete at the Games owing to his January 27 motorcycle accident.
“We could have had our biggest and strongest ever team we would have sent to the Games. Alexander would have easily qualified. We just have to wait and see if Nigel gets the green light to compete,” he concluded.