his love at first sight
Treading down memory lane
By Russell C. Chitty
Accompanying a champion boxer -- at school and at
national level -- on a nostalgic journey down the corridors of memory
lane was quite a revelation. I met Mohamed Jaroof at his well appointed
home in Ratmalana as he was taking a well-earned rest after a long
59 years he looked slightly heavier than the Bantam weight of his
boxing days, but during a mini session of shadow boxing he appeared
not to have lost much of his touch, still fleet of foot and able
to deliver a left jab, right cross, left hook and a right upper
cut in quick succession.
was born and bred at Kompannaveediya, the home ground of many national
level sportsmen and sportswomen. He attended St. Michael's School
in Kollupitiya and it was here, at the age of 12 that its then principal
S.K. Gunawardena introduced him to boxing as a method of instilling
some discipline on a naughty schoolboy. His love story with boxing
has never waned since then.
was initiated into the intricacies of the craft and science of boxing
by another product of Kompannaveediya Anton John. Coach and guru
Mr. John was himself a crafty boxer and known among his pupils and
friends as the 'brown bomber'. "None of us could get through
his defences when we sparred with him. But if we were careless enough
to drop our defences then out came his right or left to the jaw
or body", Jaroof said.
has been the fate of many a sportsman who had given his time and
energy for sports, Anton John too died unsung, unheard and unhonoured.
Jaroof represented his school at the Stubbs Shield, Junior Championship,
Indo Ceylon Tournaments and Upcountry-Low country meets and won
numerous plaudits. Together with Michael Bulner, Jaroof had the
distinction of being the only other schoolboy to have won a national
title and while at school also held the record of winning all his
bouts barring one.
was the Stubbs Shield Champion for seven years. In 1963 as a schoolboy
of 17 years, I won the National and Clifford 'Best Boxer trophy
defeating Asian Games Boxer S.P. Jayasuriya, Commonwealth Games
Boxer G.A.S. Gunasinghe, Navy's best boxer Lloyd Hope, Gordon Pereira
and A. R., Willy. "Boxing was an important part of my life.
I love it. It's an exciting sport, and it has helped build discipline
in me personally", he said.
his record at school both in studies and sports it was not long
before the army recruited him in 1966. While in the army he came
under the watchful eyes of Dr. Larry Foenander and Colonel S. Kandiah
and under their expertise he sharpened and honed his skill in the
ring craft and went from strength to strength, winning the Inter
Services National, the Clifford Cup and the Layton Cup and won selection
at the Olympic trials held in 1964 but unfortunately was not sent
to the games due to the lack of funds.
fought in the Asian championship boxing meet held in Sri Lanka and
in a fight that went down to the wire lost the bout to double gold
medallist and winner of the best boxer trophy, Chan of Korea,.
bestrode the boxing arena in the company of some of Sri Lanka's
boxing greats at the time; the Bulner brothers -- Malcolm, Michael,
Christopher and Noel; Vancuylenberg brothers -- Earnest, Hans, Jeffry
and Winston; Sumith Liyanage; H.K. Karunaratne; H.M. Marzook; R.
Thangavelu; S.S. Raju; L.V. Douglas; Nimal Leuke; Dharmasiri Weerakoon;
Chabo de Kauwe; H.K. Dharmadasa and W.R.M. Vincent, to name just
a few and with none other than the inimitable Eddie Gray directing
the destiny of the Amateur Boxing Association as its secretary then
president and a referee of many an important bout.
during a recent visit to Melbourne Australia, Jaroof accompanied
by Michael Bulner and Chabo de Kauwe met Eddie Gray and some of
his boxing compatriots who are domiciled there.
was in fine fettle and reminisced of the good old days when boxing
was at its zenith in Sri Lanka. I never dreamt that Eddie would
be dead in a few days time", Jaroof said. Among the many photographs
that decorate Jaroof's sitting room there were two he said he treasured
was of former Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake presenting him the
Sir Henry William Manning trophy for the best boxer at a national
meet in 1966 and the other was of him receiving the silver medal
from the then president of Pakistan, General Yahiya Khan.
was never one to duck a fight be it in the ring or outside it and
swears by boxing which stood him in good stead as a form of self
defence and which gave him self-confidence to go through the vicissitudes
of life. In Sri Lanka and in Dubai there were more than a few occasions
when the skills he learnt in the ring helped him - even when easily
outnumbered - to defend himself or his friends.
was in Dubai that fate dealt him a mighty punch that caught him
on his solar plexus when his only son 19 years old at the time and
a nephew were among nine Sri Lankans trapped in a flash flood and
dragged down to a watery grave. "Though I still grieve for
my son, Allah's beneficent grace has helped cushion the blow somewhat",
Jaroof said with tears in his eyes. Reluctantly though having come
back to the present, Jaroof said he had no intention of resting
on his laurels but hoped to give back to boxing what he received
from it. While admiring all the good work done for the sport by
ABA's president Dion Gomes and its official Donald Munasinghe, Jaroof
said he would be only too glad to offer his services as a coach
to any club that might be interested in engaging him.