Sweet D Files: Vernon Vanriel Inspiring

I am happy to start 2023 by discovering that there is a play called on a rope screening at the Park Theater in North London. The production is the biographical story of Vernon Vanriel, the maverick light boxer from Tottenham who rose to fame during the 1970s and 1980s for his unorthodox fighting style, but who is known more thanks to a perilous period in her life as a victim of the Windrush Scandal caused by the government’s highly malicious ‘hostile environment’ policy.

Despite living in the UK since the age of 6, Vernon was denied entry after returning from a trip to Jamaica, unaware that being outside the UK for two or more consecutive years meant that you will lose your right to stay indefinitely. That ruling left him virtually stateless for 13 years and plunged him into homelessness, destitution and despair, all while praying for a way back to his dear North London. he. In 2005, I attended a meeting at a pub to ‘send’ Vernon off for a trip to Jamaica. No one there could have predicted the fate that awaited him, at least Vernon himself.

Vernon Vanriel is the name I was attracted to when I started my professional career in 1984. At first, the fascinating part was simply the fact that he shares the same name as my brother. I’ve never heard of anyone else named Vernon. I know very little about him apart from information gleaned from the battle posters plastered all over the walls, upstairs at the Mason Arms pub, where I trained. He has a good track record, vying for the South Zone title and has clearly been up against some good names in the country. Now I know that he has risen to second place in the UK.

I assume he is from Jamaica or his parents are like me. That was a pretty safe assumption in the early 1980s. His fighting nickname, “The Entertainer,” was unusual. That is in contrast to the nicknames and prefixes ‘bomber’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘lethal’ that have been used. Vernon’s considers him flamboyant, possibly a bit flashy and different from the orthodoxy of British boxing at the time, which preferred straightforward over nimble. That appealed to me immediately. As a young heavyweight with no serious promotional influence, I felt that I needed to add additional ingredients beyond what was already in the division to have any chance of making an impact.

From those posters, I also learned that Vernon had participated in a number of performances at the Royal Albert Hall. Albert Hall was the mecca of British boxing during the 1970s and 1980s. It has a jubilant feel, which makes it feel magical and mystical. I aspire to fight there, like Vernon and the other top British boxers. A few years from now, I’ll top the bill there.

I’ve never seen Vernon play live. Our careers overlap; Mine just started and his ended a year after I turned pro, but we met at Thomas A Beckett on Old Kent Road, in 1985. He was boxing in the ring. when I walked into the gym and it was completely different from what I did. I have seen encouragement in the gyms I have joined. He’s focused solely on the elusive ability – manoeuvres, dashing in and out, using the four corners of the ring, while anticipating and avoiding imaginary punches. He’s more like Wilfred Benitez than Dave “Boy” Green.

Vernon’s talent is obvious, but it’s also easy to imagine how he could have fouled up with promoters favoring crowd-friendly honest boxers and discouraging British coaches. boxing that way – maybe because they can’t understand it. If we’re being completely honest, the slick black warriors in Britain at the time were considered unapologetic killers. Yes, people have seen the originality and brilliance of Kirkland Laing’s eccentric personality, they may even cheer as he watches him tease Roberto Duran, but they won’t rush to buy tickets to see him. that.

Vernon Vanriel

Early in my career, I’ve always had the feeling that trying different things in training and being a little more unpredictable in the ring, was an insult to the coaches here. They want you to follow the customs and standards of being a traditional British boxer just as much as they want to teach you.

At the time, I had not met or seen a black boxer in the UK as freely putting his full personality on the road as Vernon. Lloyd Honeyghan was a different person but he came a little later. He also seems similarly flashy, but his energy is different from Vernon’s, it’s not glamor and crowd entertainment, it’s marked by irritation and evil. Lloyd has sent a clear message that he is not allowed to cause trouble, in or out of the ring.

In general, though, black boxers don’t tend to color outside the line in which case they’re tagged as disrespectful, arrogant, or unapproachable and black stoned (sorry for the pun) in the UK context. It’s ironic that traversing this road is almost a necessity these days to sell fights.

Is it fair to assume that Frank Bruno’s popularity would never reach the level of frenzy like if he were argumentative, arrogant or confrontational? Maybe it wasn’t Frank’s make-up, but his somewhat passive public behavior reflected how blacks in general functioned in the wider society at the time. It’s top down and crack on. Sublime instructions handed down by your parents to fit in in a predominantly white and often hostile society are ‘don’t talk too much’, ‘don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable’ and ‘don’t cause trouble’ to my door’.

I have heard that Vernon is too short-tempered and talkative about himself, which has led the boxing world in the wrong direction and hindered his career. The establishment at the time was ostensibly ‘the cartel’, the notorious trio of Jarvis Astaire, Mickey Duff and Mike Barrett, aided by Lawless and his enviable stable of the finest British boxers.

When Vernon labeled promoters as ‘corrupt cartels’ in an interview with [i]boxing news[i] in 1982, he almost killed his chances of winning the British Championship or making further influence in the sport.

A quote from that interview reads: “The men in the evening coats and in the high paying audience were all professional whites. And the boys in the ring we are working class. Some white, some black, but we’re all working class. So it’s not all racist. That’s the classroom.

It resonates with the truth. Terry Lawless let him go almost immediately, and Vernon has stated that Lawless used his considerable influence to blacklist him with other promoters. This is not an acceptable message from a young black boxer who is also considered a bit of a personality.

Vernon continues to stand behind what he has to say about promoters. Either way, it’s undeniably true, the model boxing promoters use is still based on exploitation and that’s not going to change anytime soon. No matter how many social media interviews they do about their fighters, in the end they still treat the fighters as servants when they agree to join a show or sign a contract. agree with them. They should have some qualms about being dumped when they lose value.

I used to think Vernon Vanriel was an attractive name on a poster and then when I met him I found him to be a charismatic guy who can really box, but now I know him. He is an activist. Active activism often involves sacrifice for a purpose, and he sacrificed himself to shed light on how young men in the sport treat those with money. Now, at 67, back in North London since 2018, Vernon continues his activism and in a recent interview with the Guardian that he has one more fight on his agenda. “I want to beat the government, I want them to admit what they did was wrong.”

*** Collaborate with Wayne Cyrus ***

*** on a rope at the Park Theatre, London until February 4 ***


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