The sport of boxing has been absent from the sporting scene for quite some time in Belize. Because of various problems, including financial, local boxing promotions have been few and very far between. But according to long time trainer 59-year-old Leopold Smart, he has remained busy training boxers for the past twenty years, and his boxers have done well abroad in international competitions. And next Friday night beginning at 6:00 p.m., boxing fans will get to see 7 amateur fights at the Biltmore Plaza between Belizean and Mexican fighters. Six of the Belizean boxers will be from Smart's Gym at the Civic Center, and the other is from the Body 2000 Gym, where the trainer is Cuban-Belizean JulioTarrago.

Leopold said he was a good young amateur, and he often trained against active professionals, so that promoters were reluctant to match him against fighters his own age. As a result, his first fight at 17 years was against a seasoned 27-year-old Terrence Bailey, known as the "Black Chiney", who won a 3-round decision. The young Leopold then became eager for a rematch, against the advice of his trainer; he was over confident, and was promptly knocked out in the 2nd round of his rematch with the "Black Chiney".

Leopold thinks he was unfortunate to have advanced too quickly in the sport, and uses his experience to advise and protect his young fighters from making the mistake he did. He started training boxers in 1990 at the Lake-I Center on Mahogany Street with the assistance of Carlos Diaz. Promotions were still being held periodically at Bird's Isle in the 1990's, said Leopold, and a number of his fighters went on to box professionally, including Michael Jones (not the footballer), Melvin Bood, Tyrone Bood, Joseph Eagan and Edward Lynch.

He started training boxers at the Civic Center in 1995, and that same year took a team to the Central American Games in Guatemala City along with Gus Torres from Cayo, and they brought back 1 gold (Errol Banner - middleweight), 1 silver (Michael Soberanis - Junior Middleweight), and 2 bronze medals (Joseph Eagan - Lightweight, and Horace Cadle - Welterweight).

Over the years, Leopold continued training fighters, and he recalls training Moses Sulph in early 2000. Again he and Gus Torres of Cayo led the Belize team in the Copa America hosted by Belize in 2000, which was dominated by Belizean boxers. From Belize City, Moses Sulph, Joseph Eagan and Horace Cadle won gold; and a youth named Tucker won silver. Two Cayo boxers won gold; they were Errol Banner and Michael Soberanis.

Their next venture was at the Olympic trials in Tampa, Florida, but they were not so successful. They saw where a lot of work was needed. He recalls that shortly after that, Joseph Eagan migrated to the U.S., where he won two fights and lost one; and then he had to quit the sport, due to an irregular heartbeat. Eventually the other boxers got older and faded from the sport.

Leopold is now focusing on a new crop of 16 young boxers who train under him at the Civic gym in the evenings. His 6 fighters who will be on next week's card are Sherman Galvez, 26; Max Williams, 23; Salvadoran Anderson Petillo, 18; Zane Rudon, 17, from A.C.C.; Harold Moriano, 15, from Sadie Vernon; and Colin Lamb, 15, from Tubal Institute. By next year, he expects to have some fighters ready to fight professionally.

Next Friday's card will have a general admission of $5.00 and ringside seats for $15.00.