From time to time, on talk shows I hear (and also get approached by) Bahamians who question the appreciation factor of The Bahamas and its people for Everette “Elisha Obed” Ferguson.
The only Bahamian authentic “world” boxing champion is not doing too well. He has been deteriorating for some seven years now. There are those who are saying he has not been treated well in this country.
That’s a ridiculous allegation. It’s time the record was set straight on one of the greatest sports icons ever produced by this country.
Obed, during the Sir Lynden Pindling administration around 1976, was a designated item on the House of Assembly agenda as a national hero. I don’t recall any other Bahamian getting that specific honor. The nation acknowledged him as its hero.
That’s a high national honor! Some, who think of knighthoods with disdain, would consider it the ultimate salute to a Bahamian hero. He was an early inductee into the National Hall of Fame. He is in the Florida Hall of Fame. As late as 2009, special tribute was paid to Obed regionally.
The Pan American Caribbean Boxing Organization (PACBO), of which I have the privilege to be the president, sponsored Obed’s trip to Jamaica, where he was saluted at the inaugural Caribbean Sports Icons Awards affair. In 2009, he still had the ability to take care of himself, mostly. PACBO covered the cost for a brother-in-law to accompany him. It gave me great joy to see our champion interacting with his peers on banquet night at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica.
It was really the last of the many hurrahs he’s had in his life, at a time when he could enjoy it to the fullest.
It’s been a good ride for the man with Acklins roots.
I recall back in 1971 when he returned from his short-term base in New York to box Ray Minus Sr. for the welterweight championship of The Bahamas. Dr. Norman Gay, the architect of the modern professional boxing environment, had arranged for Obed to train in New York under the management of Steve Acunta.
On the Monday after he had defeated Minis Sr. easily by a decision to win the title, I was on East Street North, about to go into the restaurant called Sin, which was owned by George Capron. I heard someone call me. It was Obed. He came up to me and expressed his knowledge of my close connection to the Dundees (Chris and Angelo). He asked that I seek to get him into their camp.
I informed him that there would have to be some negotiations between Acunta and the Dundees, because he was legally bound to the New Yorker. He asked me to make the call nevertheless.
I did. I called Angelo and he indicated a strong interest immediately, but his personal group of fighters was large. He offered to persuade Chris to arrange new management details once (and if) matters with Acunta got cleared up. Chris agreed. There was the negotiation with Acunta and the rest is history.
Obed signed a new contract with Michael Dundee (Chris’ son) as manager. Moe Fleisher was the official trainer and Angelo looked on closely and helped in the mentoring.
I had a conversation with Chris and told him pointedly that, although he was a part of pro boxing’s elite world circle, he had a reputation for not handling fighters who were tied to him properly. I told him that I wanted to know the full details of every purse arrangement made for Obed, otherwise I would be the first to expose him if it became necessary.
This is the first time I’m putting this fact to the public.
As an example, when Obed defeated Sea Robinson, his last title defense of the World Boxing Council junior middleweight title in April of 1976, he came home with his share totaling $114,000. That was a lot of money at the time; it was good take-home funds.
This was the case until Obed parted ways with the Dundees. The Dundees, Moe Fleisher and the whole gang in Miami Beach at the fabled Fifth Street Gym were good to him.
Here at home, he was treated royally with Larry Forsythe, Wilfred Coakley, Chris Malakius and many others always operating in his best interest. Unfortunately, fighters generally feel that they have some time in the ring left, when others around them know better.
Obed had 115 fights, his last in 1988 at the age of 36. He should have retired at least two years earlier, but he didn’t. His story is bittersweet. I reflect often of him in his glorious moments, regal and mighty, capable in his prime of beating anybody put against him.
Then, I think of the physical challenges he faces today at the age of 62.
It’s not the ending we wanted for our champion, but we all did the best we could for him.
Elisha Obed has been well appreciated.
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at [email protected]