By RON FANFAIR
The Caribbean lost two prominent sports personalities in the last week.
Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) president, Howard “Fudge” Aris, was campaigning with People’s National Party (PNP) leader, Portia Simpson-Miller, in Portland when he took ill and died shortly afterwards.
The 75-year-old Columbia University physiotherapy graduate and late Prime Minister Michael Manley’s personal trainer was the JAAA head for the past seven years.
It was under Aris’ watch that Jamaica swept the sprint gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning 11 medals overall and finishing third out of 204 countries in track and field.
“The track and field fraternity has lost a man who cared for the sport,” Usain Bolt wrote on Twitter.
Toronto-based lawyer and Share columnist Errol Townshend said Aris was an extremely capable, experienced and dedicated administrator and coach.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult for Jamaica to replace him,” said Townshend who, with the late Jimmy Carnegie, co-authored Herb McKenley: Olympic Star. “He was very well-mannered, laid back and a visionary personality who made a tremendous contribution to the success of Jamaica’s track and field program.
“In later years, he was able to tap the financial resources of the business community, make the necessary arrangements for international meets and spearhead Jamaica’s preparations for the various global events the country has hosted over the years.”
Aris was an outstanding athlete and one of the stars that shone brightly during Kingston College’s winning streak in the early 1950s in Jamaica’s interscholastic track and field championships, commonly known as CHAMPS.
He won the long jump event in 1951 and had a banner year in 1952 accumulating the most points – 14 – in Class Two. He beat Calabar student Leroy Keane – who died in Toronto last year – in the 120-yard hurdles, won the long jump event with a record leap of 21 feet, six and three-eights inches, captured the high jump event soaring 5′ 8″ and was third in the 100-yard dash.
Aris coached his alma mater for a decade up until 1979, leading KC to seven straight CHAMPS titles between 1969 and 1975 and the 1979 championship.
Greater Toronto Area-based alumnus, Clive Bariffe, was a member of the winning CHAMPS teams from 1970 to 1974. He said Aris introduced him to long jumping and the short hurdles.
“He saw me one day at school and said, ‘it’s your turn’,” recalled Bariffe who won both events in his final year. “Before I knew what he was talking about, I was on the team.”
Aris also negotiated for Bariffe to attend the University of Florida on a track and field scholarship.
“I had several offers, but he narrowed it down to that university,” Bariffe said. “He matched many Jamaican athletes with universities that he felt would be beneficial for them and he always made sure that at least two athletes attended a university at the same time. He never wanted a Jamaican athlete to be alone on an overseas campus. Howard was a visionary and someone who I will also remember as being jovial and well organized.”
And, Patrick Ford, the first Guyanese boxer to contend for a world title, passed away last Sunday in New York a few days after being hospitalized. He was 55.
After winning his first 16 professional fights, Ford fought the late Salvador Sanchez of Mexico for the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight title in September 1980 in San Antonio, Texas. Five months later, he was back in the ring, challenging Panamanian Eusebio Pedroza for the World Boxing Association (WBA) version of the title. He lost to Sanchez by a unanimous decision in their 15-rounder and was knocked out by Pedroza in the 13th round in Panama City.
Prior to challenging for the world title, Ford captured the WBC Central American Boxing Federation crown by beating Puerto Rican Enrique Solis before journeying to Nigeria in August 1980 where he knocked out hometown hero Eddie Ndukwu in the eighth round to clinch the Commonwealth British Empire featherweight title.
Ford retired in 1987 with a record of 19 wins and four losses and migrated to the United States where he became a trainer at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn.
Ford’s older brother, Reginald, won 11 of his 27 professional bouts as a middleweight while his nephew, Darius, was an outstanding amateur bantamweight fighter.