By Robert Coster
The Caribbean heat is stifling under a merciless sun; the scenery is one of dreary desolation: shacks, dust, dry barren land and litter. Obviously there is nothing to cheer about in Cite Soleil, one of the worst slums on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. But today, the inhabitants of Cite Soleil (curiously translated as “Sun City”) will forget their daily struggle for survival: they are witnessing a boxing exhibition which features junior welterweight prospect Evens Pierre, born and raised in this seemingly hopeless environment.
Photos: Robert Coster
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Pierre, who fights in Panama, is (10-0, 9 KOs) and the people here proudly look up to him as role model and symbol. Evens laces the gloves to spar with Jimmy Colas, a Haitian-born French boxer as well as a former European junior middleweight champion, who is visiting his family in Haiti.
The two men spar on a cement platform, not a ring. But it matters little to the children and the youth of Cite Soleil who watch fascinated, shouting encouragement, some of them mimicking the action between Pierre and Colas. The sponsor of the event is Jacques Deschamps, Haitian businessman, philanthropist and manager of WBC light flyweight champion Edgar Sosa.
Deschamps is delighted at the reaction of the crowd: “These kids see hope when they watch Evens Pierre, one of their own,” says Jacques, “it’s just great. I got kids coming up to me, wanting to box. They want to fight their way out of poverty-literally.”
Haiti has almost no boxing tradition, no trainers and no facilities, however, the success of Haitian origin boxers abroad has been followed by the local youths.
Comments Deschamps: “Young people here have followed the careers of Andre Berto, Joachim Alcine and Jean Pascal who have won world titles. And also, Jimmy Colas, who is here today and is a former European champion who honors us with his presence.”
Evenings falls on Cite Soleil and the boxers unlace their gloves. The exhibition is finished and tomorrow will be yet another day of hardship for the largely jobless people of this forsaken area. But today was different: for once there was jubilation, pride and hope. And local son Evens Pierre certainly echoes that feeling with a promise: “I told my people of Cite Soleil today that I will return as a world champion. I will make them proud and the title will also be theirs.”