Revival of Royal vs Trinity boxing dual
after lapse of 50 years

Chronicling the history of a sport which has a rich tradition at Royal College is to record for posterity the epoch-making events and displays of technique and ring-craft, particularly those of World War I vintage, the years 1914 and after. Men whose pioneering efforts helped produce many able bodied sons of our native soil, who distinguished themselves in various spheres of sport and life; those torch bearers who kept the ‘flame’ burning bright against tremendous odds. To encapsulate all this in a brief article would be a herculean task and this account tries, therefore only to record the highlights in the 97-year-old boxing history of Royal.

The first Ceylonese and the first Royalist to make headway in boxing overseas was Donald Obeyesekere. He fought his way to victory at Cambridge at the turn of the 19th century, way back in 1898. On his return to Ceylon his set resolve was to further the cause of boxing as an art of self defence in the schools and Royal became one of the chief beneficiaries. To remedy the dearth of organised sports, boxing was introduced to Royal in 1913. The Principal at the time was Charles Hartley. A challenge shield was presented for inter-house boxing in 1919 by Donald Obeyesekere and this gave Royal a head start over most other schools. Mr. L. Mac D. Robinson, a Director of Education, also assisted in training the boys. The son of the Bishop of Oxford, Sir R. E. Stubbs when serving as the Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, bestowed a thrust upon boxing that is still very much alive by presenting the Stubbs Shield for competition among schools, making them veritable nurseries of the noble art. It could be said of Obeyesekere that he lit the torch of boxing at Royal which was ably carried by his son, Danton for 55 years! This is best illustrated by the fact that Royal has participated in every Stubbs Shield meet since its inception in 1914 except for in 1999 and 2010.

Danton Obeyesekere was the first Royalist to win the Best Boxers cup at the Stubbs Shield in 1925 and later became the first Asiatic to Captain Cambridge University in any sport, in 1928. The other Cambridge ‘Blues’ were Steve Dassanayake, Frederick Obeyesekere, Cedric de Soysa and Ponnambalam Rajendram, whilst Chris de Saram captained Oxford University. A. W. Henricus won a Gold Medal for the country at the Empire Games in Sydney, Australia in 1938 whilst A. I. Obeysekere won a Bronze Medal at the Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand in 1950. E. I. Gray and A. I. Obeysekere represented the country at the Olympic Games in London, England in 1948 while B. C. Henricus represented the country at the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland in 1952. M. A. Jayalath represented Sri Lanka at the Asian Games in New Delhi, India in 1982. Danton, Eddie Gray and Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya have had the distinction of qualifying as AIBA Referees/Judges.

Royal emerged champions at the Stubbs Shield meet for the first time in 1935 during the centenary year, two years after Danton Obeyesekere had begun coaching the Royal team. Royal’s boxing struck a purple patch during the 1940s (1944-47) and the 1980s (1984-87) to set up a series record of four consecutive wins. This record was subsequently broken by Vidyartha College, Kandy who had seven consecutive wins (1991-97). Royal still holds the record for the most number of wins in the Stubbs series with 18 wins. The most number of individual wins recorded in the Stubbs series were by A. B. Henricus (7), F. I. T. Labrooy (6), H. Bandara (6), S. B. Samaratunge (5), H. Ousman (5) and M. M. A. Nisthar (5). Royal has also won the Phelps Memorial Trophy for the ABA Junior Championships on 4 occasions, T. B. Jayah Memorial Challenge Cup for Novices on 6 occasions and the L. V. Jayaweera Challenge Cup for Freshers, once. D. V. Boderagama has been the only Royalist to win a National title as a schoolboy, when he won the flyweight in 1946 at the age of 17.

Boxing at Trinity -

Boxing at Trinity has been an ‘On, off’ sport. Boxing was introduced at Trinity in 1907 for the small boys and became a serious school sport in 1913 for the boys who were physically fit. Mr. Mulgrue of the staff was the first coach and he was assisted by R. V. Routledge, Sgt. Maj. Jobson and Rignell of the Army regiment stationed in Kandy.

An inter-house meet was held in the very first year and Trinity won the Stubbs in the inaugural meet in 1914. Trinity’s ascendency was maintained in 1915, ’17, ’18, ’21, ’22, ’23, ’26, ’49, ’51, and in 1983. Only Royal and St. Sylvester’s have won the Stubbs Shield on more occasions.

The first death-knell to Trinity boxing was in 1962, but, like the phoenix, it sprang back to life in 1978 with the trainers being Bobby Jayaweera, S. B. Kiridena, Leslie Handunge and Sarath Jayasinghe and culminated with winning the Stubbs in 1983. Sadly the second death-knell was dealt to Trinity boxing in 1984 and was again revived in 2005. Now that a professional boxing Ring has been donated by Dian Gomes, Trinity boxing may once again be on the fast track. Even though Trinity boxers fared exceptionally well, in all meets in which they participated over the years, the sport continued to receive the treatment accorded to Cinderella.

The ‘Lions’ for boxing have been awarded to M. P. Kellora, F. R. Sirimanne, George Wells, Sydney Ratwatte, L. de Sliva, Henry Young, M. S. Daniel, E. C. Godleib, D. L. Y. Paktsun, L. K. L. de Silva, Rajah Sumanasekera, Ikram Odeyar, Udeni Kiridena and Sajith Egodage. The only Olympian boxer produced by Trinity was Leslie Handunge who represented the country at the London Olympics in 1948 and captained the contingent at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. Udeni Kiridena was the only Trinitian to qualify as A.I.B.A Referee/Judge.

Priantha Malavi and Sharm de Alwis November 30, 2010


1955 – Royal

1956 – (Not held0

1957 – Royal

1958 – Royal

1959 – (Not held)

1960 – Trinity

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