Considered just a child in the sport boxing, 27-year-old Nigel Paul returned home on Sunday to a rousing applause by all including Minister of Sports Darryl Smith, president of the T&TOC Brian Lewis, family members and other well wishers at the VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport, after sealing a place at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Brazil later this year.
He will now be off to the AIBA sanctioned World Series of Boxing Semi Professional League in Mexico scheduled for April 2, where he will be the only TT fighter to tangle with top fighters from the host nation, England, Morocco and the United States. He was selected from a draft last year in Switzerland where boxers from across the globe were entered, as well as TT’s Michael Alexander, Aaron Prince and Andrew Fermin.
Coach Floyd Trumpet said after the world series he will submit a comprehensive preparation programme for his fighter ahead of the Olympics, which will require him to receive outside sparring in countries such as Cuba and Venezuela and elsewhere in Europe.
In just 11 fights, within the span of a year, the Super heavyweight fighter won the hearts of many by becoming only the third boxer from T&T to earn a spot at the Olympics, following in the shadows of Kirt ‘The Technician’ Sinnette in 1996, and American-born Carlos Suarez in 2012. Minister Smith promised all will be done to support Paul with the resources available to him.
Qualification came in his 10th fight after he defeated hometown favourite Kevin Espinola 3-0 on Thursday last in the semi finals of the AIBA America Boxing Qualifiers in Argentina where he picked up a niggling injury to his right hand, that led to him being beaten in the final on Saturday by Cuban Lenier Pero. Paul said he could not box as he wanted too because of the discomfort he felt. “I didn’t want people to say that I was making excuses so I boxed, but my coach told me I should have said something” Paul said.
Paul of Enterprise, Chaguanas was grateful to Almighty God for his achievement, saying he still cannot believe he has qualified in such a short space of time, but said with God everything is possible. He said all credit must be given to his coach who insisted at the start that they were training to qualify for the Olympics.