Boxing at Royal and Trinity: 100 years


by Priantha Malavi

At Royal

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; the 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 100 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 the inter house boxing in 1919 by Donald Obeyesekere, and this gave Royal a head start over most other schools. L. Mac D.R obison, 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 to 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 Donald 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 in 1999 and 2010.

Danton Obeyesekere was the first Royalist to win the Best Boxer’s Cup at the Stubbs Shield in 1925 and later became the first Asian 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. Obeyesekere won a bronze medal at the Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand in 1948.

E. I. Gray and A. I. Obeyesekere represented the country at the Olympic Games in London, in England in 1948, while B. C. Henricus represented the country at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, in 1952.

M. A. Jayalath represented Sri Lanka at the Asian Games in New Delhi, India in 1982. Danton Obeyesekere, Eddie Gray and Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya have had the distinction of qualifying as AIBA Referee/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 Shield series with 18 wins. The most number of individual wins recorded in the Stubbs Shield 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 at the A. B. A. Junior Championships on four occasions, the T. B. Jayah Memorial Challenge Cup for Novices on six 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 Fly weight 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 younger students, and became a serious school sport in 1913 for the boys who were physically fit.

Mulgrue of the staff was the first coach and he was assisted by R. V. Routledge, Sgt. Major 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 Shield 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 dealt 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 Shield in 1983. Sadly, the second death-knell was dealt to Trinity boxing in 1984 but it was 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, Sajith Egodage and G. Lushanth. The only Olympian boxer produced by Trinity was the 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 an A. I. B. A Referee/Judge.

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