From the ring to Scotland Yard
By Bernie Wijesekera
Geoffrey Van Cuylenberg– a product of St. Michael’s College, Polwatte (Kollupitiya) excelled in boxing while at school and brought honours to his school on several occasions. His brothers Winston, Hans and Ernest too were outstanding boxers.

Geoffrey has now retired after serving Scotland Yard, UK as a Fingerprint officer. I met him on his recent visit to Sri Lanka on January 12 at Renuka Hotel, Colombo.
Q: Did your father box?
A: My Pa, Alec never boxed, But he was the cog-in-the wheel.

Q: Life was never a “Bed of Roses”.
A: Yes. We never enjoyed the privileges that the present day boxers are endowed with. It’s good. But they must be committed, to bring the sports to past glories. We worked hard on our own. Even with our limited resources. My coach was the late Anton John. Anton should be in the Hall of Fame.

Q: What was the secret behind your success?
A: Had a good trainer (fitness) competent coach and mental toughness. Finally do it yourself. Road work cutting, logs etc.

Q: Were there sponsors?
A: No. we had to work hard on our own with our limited resources which included travelling.

Q: Who were the boxers, who caught your eye, besides your brother Winston?
A: The Bulner brothers, Sumith Liyanage etc.

Q: What was the most unforgettable moment in your career?
A: My first professional fight. The Chief Guest was that great Frenchman Georges Carpentier, the former World Heavyweight champion, in London. My professional fee was £80.

Q: But you still fought and took to the professional ring. It’s like work and play, or learn our books and learn to play the game.
A: Yes. My opponent was Eric Elderfield. I was cool and composed. Punched and counter-punched.

Q: No quarter given, none asked for.
A: Yes. My first professional fight was a fitting draw. The fans were stunned by the little Lankan’s performances in the (fly-weight). Besides the purse the audience threw their money in appreciation of my first professional stint in the ring. My professional career was short-lived due to my official commitments at Scotland Yard Police headquarters. Two wins, two losses and two drawn.
My brother Winston was the first professional from Ceylon (Bantam weight). He represented the country in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Q: What was your best fight here?
A: As a schoolboy in 1962 against that rugged sailor W.R.M. Vincent. Had eight fights against him.

Q: What was your first job?
A: As an 18-year old I joined the then Sun newspaper as a proof reader. Later I served as a sports journalist under Sam Younoos, Sports Editor. It was short, then I migrated to England to join the Scotland Yard Police.

Q: What have you got to say about boxing now and then?
A: The present standard is reasonably good. At the last Commonwealth Boxing Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, I witnessed the fights. Our boys fared well winning two bronze medals. The present facilities afforded to them by the president, ABA Dian Gomes, is excellent. I am confident before long with this encouragement the sport will reach greater heights. With job opportunities afforded to them to be in continuity (economically). Sri Lanka should be able to match Asia’s best in the lower weights, in the years to come. During my time, I had to borrow the shoes, even the boxing shorts to take to the ring.


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