Three boxers from Controversy Gym will make a ground-breaking trip to Florida today as part of the first team from the amateur gym to compete overseas.
Michael Parsons, Lovintz Tota and Adrian Roach will don Controversy’s green and black colours when they step between the ropes in the Frank Gervin Memorial at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort on Saturday night.
The Bermudian trio will join pugilists from Ireland, New Jersey and Florida at the sanctioned event, hosted by the Marco Island Boxing Club, with Leo Richardson, the Controversy head coach, hoping to develop a strong relationship between the two clubs.
“I wanted the guys to get some international exposure and face different types of fighters, a different calibre of fighters, and gain different experiences,” said Richardson, who still goes by the moniker “Lionheart”, which he adopted during his fighting days.
“I’m sure they will represent Controversy and Bermuda very well and, hopefully, we can build a good relationship with [the Marco Island Boxing Club]. Maybe in the future they can bring fighters [to Bermuda] from their camp.
“This will be the first time Controversy has sent guys away to fight. It’s a milestone for the club and that’s what it’s all about: growing boxing in Bermuda. When you think big, big things will happen.”
Previously based at a double-duty facility at the end of Mill Creek in Spanish Point — which transformed from a boatyard workshop by day into a boxing gym by night — Controversy moved to Queen’s Club’s basement in December 2012. It now boasts a thriving afterschool programme and a growing stable of adult fighters.
“We’re showing that we’re willing to invest in these guys if they show they’re serious,” Richardson added. “They have to earn it, though, because if I’m willing to put my own money up and the gym’s money up, then I’m going to put it to good use.”
At 39, Parsons is by far the most experienced of the trio, having fought extensively on the Eastern Seaboard and the South of England, where he lived for several years before returning to the island at the beginning of 2018.
He fell in love with the “sweet science” while watching USA Tuesday Night Fights with his father and subsequently laced up the gloves as a youngster at St George’s Secondary School, where he learnt the fundamentals of the sport.
“I started boxing at St George’s Secondary School as a ten-year-old and got back into it when I moved to the US, where I had my first amateur fight as a 20-year-old in Pennsylvania,” said Parsons, who has 15 bouts under his belt.
“When I went to England in 2010, I really got back into boxing. That’s probably the reason I stayed in the UK for so long; I was constantly boxing, getting different looks against English guys, Polish guys and Russian guys.
“When I returned to Bermuda and Leo asked me to get involved with Controversy, it was a no-brainer.”
Parsons, who will face Jeremy Satchel in a welterweight bout, said he is more than willing to share his experience with Tota and Roach during their trip.
“The youths need to understand about the levels to boxing and that there’s a bigger world out there,” said Parsons, a former Bermuda footballer, who has turned out for Dandy Town this season.
“Lovintz has had two fights fall through on local cards and I’m really happy for him to be making his debut. As for Adrian, he’s Controversy’s future and I’ll help him in any way I can. Hopefully, we can see more youth get into boxing because it teaches them life skills and discipline. It’s not just about beating up people.”
Like Parsons, Tota is also a familiar face in the football fraternity, as a forward for Devonshire Cougars. He will be facing a fellow debutant, Shaun Wilkerson, in a middleweight contest.
“I wanted my first fight to be in Bermuda but that didn’t work out,” said the 33-year-old, who also trains with Janos Lindsey of Just Box Limited.
“I’ve been putting in the hard work and I’m confident of getting the victory. I’ve been sparring with all these guys [at Controversy] but it will be something different stepping in the ring in front of a crowd.”
A Carifta Games gold medal-winner, who shares the national junior long jump record of 7.68 metres with Mike Sharpe, Tota believes his natural athleticism and lifelong commitment to training has accelerated his transition to boxing.
“If you’re sports inclined, certain people can do the switch and adapt to other sports,” he said. “I enjoy competing in front of a crowd; it really amps me up to do well.”
Roach has followed a well-worn path into boxing. He was first taken to Controversy by his father after being suspended from Berkeley Institute and credits the club and its coaches for helping keep him back on the straight and narrow.
“Boxing has really helped me,” said Roach, who has been pitted against Jibril Marshall, a fellow 16-year-old, in a welterweight clash. “I’m not getting into trouble any more and my grades are coming up. My whole attitude has improved and I’ve learnt not to always resort to violence.”
With Richardson and Chuck Renauld, who founded Controversy Gym, unable to travel because of personal reasons, Quinton Mallory, a well-respected figure in local boxing, will accompany the team in Florida.
“I’m so happy these guys are heading to Florida,” Renauld added.
“I’m sure we will bring some stuff home. Mr Mallory will be taking my place. He’s been around almost as long as me! I’ve told him he’s got a home at Controversy Gym.”