Akeem "Miggie Smalls" Mignott is a 25-year-old St Andrew-based featherweight boxer who says a lack of opportunities is making him consider migration.
Mignott says that six of his last scheduled fights over the last two years have been cancelled for various reasons.
He started out in mixed martial arts (MMA) but after his first fight was cancelled because his opponent changed his mind about facing him, he retired with only one match in an octagon. This was because after his subsequent fights were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to find other fighters in his weight class. That's when he decided to switch to boxing, now training in Duhaney Park, but also occasionally with professional boxer now turned coach Sakima Mullings at the Suga Knockout Boxing Gym in Olympic Gardens.
He then had a boxing match set for last August but was unable to find sponsorship. He was then scheduled to face Tyreek Jackson in Olympic Gardens last summer. However, Jackson realised at the weigh-in for the event that he was nine years younger than Mignott and his camp cancelled the bout.
Mignott was set to compete at a fight night at the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport last month, but his opponent did not show up on the night.
"I feel extremely frustrated every time I hear myself booked for a fight," Mignott told the Jamaica Observer. "I honestly feel a mixture of angst and also an impending disappointment, especially when you consider how hard I train and how seriously I take fighting, as a whole. I can't believe the run of luck I've had."
But while he says it is difficult to motivate himself to prepare for fights when he is unsure they will even occur, Mignott says he still keeps himself in the best shape possible.
"Sometimes, it's tough to get up and put your body through the physical and mental stress that comes with training for such a cut-throat sport," he said. "I'm always training because I know my end goal and where I want to be, ultimately. So even when I'm not booked for a fight, I'm working just as hard, so it's no change for me."
Mignott, who has completed studies in communication arts at the University of Technology, Jamaica, has the option of seeking traditional employment but says that his goal is to represent Jamaica. First, he wants to do this as an amateur at the Olympic Games in 2024, then professionally in world title fights globally. But with his 26th birthday coming next month, he says he may be running out of time.
"I do feel it will keep happening," he said of his matches being cancelled. "It has been repeating itself for two years now, so I'm losing hope that I will ever get to compete in my home country again.
"There's already a shortage of good fighters in my weight class in Jamaica and, to tell you the truth, my goal has always been to compete at the highest level. This was my way to get there, but now my window feels like it's getting smaller and smaller every passing day."
Mignott says he is unsure what can be done by the Jamaica Boxing Board (JBB) to produce more options in the division but he says boxers need to find it more appealing to step into the ring. Mignott referenced former world champions Mike McCallum, Trevor Berbick, Glen Johnson, and Nicholas Walters as Jamaican boxers who all had their opportunities because of migration.
"I think the problem is a lack of funding in the sport, hence a lack of people trying to get into the sport or being able to compete effectively," he said. "That's why I think so many people leave the country to get chances to compete because the Government doesn't seem as concerned with boxing as it is with sports such as track and field, and football."
But JBB President Stephen Jones disagrees with Mignott that the featherweight division lacks numbers.
"It's not a difficult weight for him to find bouts in," Jones told the Observer. "I don't know much about him but if he's coming over from MMA, then his first thing would be to align himself with a gym and the coaches because those are the ones who'd be integral in matching up the fights."
Jones says the JBB only has difficulty with its heavyweight division, and its women's boxing, where it is still building on the number of females to have depth in each weight class. He says the bout at GC Foster was oversubscribed, where he says there were nine amateur bouts on the card but they could have had at least six more.
"My advice would not be for someone in the featherweight division to go overseas to get fights," he said. "I expect us to have a heavy calendar for 2023, and if he's aligned with a gym and serious about the sport, and training, he will get bouts."
The JBB's next high-profile amateur event is the National Championships at the Stanley Couch Gym in Kingston early next year.