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Jackman sisters aim to lift women’s boxing’s profile in Guyana

Express News Service

CHENNAI: In a sea of talented boxers in the ongoing IBA Women’s World Championships in New Delhi, there are a couple of women who have come from the other side of the world to test their mettle. What’s unique about them is they’re related by blood. For sisters Abiola Jackman and Alesha, this world event is a rare opportunity to gauge what they are getting into. It’s also their chance to make their mother, who passed away not so long ago, proud. Coming from a region where there’s a stigma attached to women’s boxing, the Jackman sisters are looking to eliminate that.

However, their journey was a brief one with both losing their opening-round bouts. The result is far from ideal but this experience is something that could propel more female boxers from the region to take up the sport in the future. Unlike nations with foolproof systems in place, theirs is still basic. That has naturally meant they have not been able to explore their full potential. “We don’t have a big pool of female boxers. We have only three female boxers who have competed at some respected level and these two are the leading boxers. So we will have to go on a major drive in recruiting more girls into the sport. These two are participating in the World Championships for the first time,” Guyana coach, Sebert Blake, said.

On the first day itself, Abiola, the elder of the two, went down against India’s Nupur Sheoran in the heavyweight division (+81kg). Given the stark contrast in facilities between the two nations, the outcome was not a surprise.”I need a lot more sparring sessions with people in my weight category so that I can improve,” the boxer, who took up the sport in 2016 after seeing her younger sister go to the gym, noted.

One main reason Abiola is missing out on quality sparring is because the boxing culture (among women in Guyana) is non-existent. “In Guyana, there is a stigma in women’s boxing… about hurting their face, head injuries and so on,” Blake said. “They work a lot with each other since they are sisters. But it’s mostly like an exhibition and nowhere close to competition.”

Alesha (63kg), meanwhile, lost on the second day. Alesha, who’s also into running and fond of football, has had the nose for fighting since she was very young. Pitted against Uzbekistan’s Khadichabonu Abdullaeva, she was shown just how monumental a task they have ahead of them. The referee was forced to stop the contest in the second round in favour of the Uzbek.

Unlike other elite nations, who have a team of trained professionals to look after the pugilists, Guyana are just a three-member contingent in this competition. Coach Blake, who has been a source of strength for the girls and catering to all their needs, is far from demoralised and is more intent on selling the idea of women’s boxing back home. “Hopefully, we can take these videos of the performances back to Guyana and broadcast it back home so that some of the youngsters are able to see it and would be inspired to join the sport. We want to spread that message as much as possible,” the IBA 3-star coach said.

As things stand, they might be short of much-needed facilities and boxing nous, but that doesn’t stop them from dreaming. “I’m hoping for them to qualify for the Olympics but it’s an uphill task for 2024. We are looking at 2028 and beyond. I believe the two girls have the ability and if they are nurtured in the right direction, we can make 2028 for sure,” Blake assessed.The trio’s willingness to cross continents and their attitude to take defeats in stride will hopefully pay off in the long run.

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