Hill vows to keep fighting for boxing gym

  • The ringmaster: Clarence Hill has big plans for his boxing gym at “The Catterick Building” on Military Road in St George’s. The former heavyweight hoped the facility would have been open by now and is frustrated that the Government has not yet started refurbishments to the old building

(Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Clarence Hill inside

Clarence Hill says he will keep fighting until the boxing gym he was promised in St George’s by the Bermuda Government is up and running.

It has been seven months since it was announced that a gym would be named in Hill’s honour, as Bermuda’s first and only Olympic Games medal-winner, at “The Catterick Building” on Military Road.

Zane DeSilva, the former Minister of Social Development and Sport, said in December that he hoped the facility would be open “later this year or early next year”.

Although Hill has been reassured by Michael Weeks, DeSilva’s successor, that those plans are still forging ahead, the 67-year-old said he is becoming increasingly frustrated at the Government’s lack of action.

“I figured by now I’d be in the gym and training young men,” Hill said. “I don’t want to blame the politicians but who else can you blame? They made the promise.

“Zane DeSilva made the promise and now Michael Weeks has stepped into his seat, and I don’t want to put all of the blame on him. It’s been passed down to so many politicians.

“It makes me feel like they have no concern for me. Other people can say something and it gets done but Clarence Hill opens his mouth and nothing happens.

“I don’t give up, though. Whether I’m fighting in the ring or out of the ring I won’t give up.”

Hill said the old building requires extensive refurbishments before it is fit to train youngsters but remains optimistic about his long-time dream becoming a reality.

“It could take even longer now because Colonel [David] Burch has told me the building needs an upgrade,” said Hill, who won bronze at the Montreal Games.

“The flooring has holes in it and the steps going up to the second floor need to be structured better. The water system needs to be upgraded and some of the window panes need to be changed.

“They have also told me the place is infested with termites and needs to be fumigated.

“It’s a government building and they should know exactly what needs to be done and should have had it done by now if they were really serious about what they promised.”

Hill first expressed his desire to open a gym in 2012 — when the Progressive Labour Party announced in the Throne Speech that it intended to erect a bronze statue in his honour — saying the money would be better invested in a boxing facility.

The former heavyweight was also in talks with the previous One Bermuda Alliance government in 2016 about opening a gym at the St George’s Community Centre.

He said he hopes the gym will attract those youngsters in the East End keen to learn the “sweet science”, as well as some of the island’s top boxers.

“I want to give back to the youth and I chose St George’s because at the time that’s where I was living and I could see the youth there doing nothing,” said Hill, who plans to train fighters himself at the gym.

“There’s a lot of youth in St George’s and I’ve got guys waiting for the gym to be open to come down.

“I want Bermuda to understand I have no hate in my heart for my countrymen, but I won an Olympic medal and I’ve not been recognised in the way other countries recognise their medal-winners.”

Minister Weeks said he understood Hill’s frustrations but stressed the project was moving forward as quickly as possible.

“There was an agreement between Works and this ministry to come up with a boxing gym for Clarence Hill, and for that a licence and/or rental agreement has to be signed between the Government and Mr Hill,” Weeks said.

“That licence agreement is being vetted by the Attorney-General’s chambers. As soon as that’s completed, we will move forward.

“I have talked to Mr Hill on a number of occasions, and I understand his frustration, but we are definitely trying to push to have that done.”