Bahamian boxing legend passes away at age 58
One of The Bahamas’ greatest boxers ever, a sports icon, and a legend inside and out of the ring, has passed.
Ray Minus Jr. had a boxing career that would make most sportsmen marvel, and be in awe of, as his list of accomplishments puts him in another stratosphere in Bahamian sports history – one that has only been matched or surpassed by Everette ‘Elisha Obed’ Ferguson. Many, including this sports writer, would regard Minus as The Bahamas’ second greatest boxer ever behind Obed, but when you add in his accomplishments outside of the ring, including a coaching and training career that spanned more than 20 years, the legacy of Ray Minus Jr. is incomparable.
Minus, 58, died at 9:25 a.m. at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) on Thursday, succumbing to the rare and incurable neurological disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is named after the American professional baseball player who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) and was diagnosed with the same disease in 1939 before passing away in 1941. ALS is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. Minus was officially diagnosed with ALS in October 2022.
As for the man himself, inside the ring, he enjoyed a professional career that spanned 19 years, from 1982 to 2001, winning numerous titles along the way. Minus fought as a bantamweight (118 pounds), super bantamweight (122 pounds), featherweight (126 pounds), super featherweight (130 pounds), lightweight (135 pounds) and light welterweight (140 pounds), during his illustrious 19-year professional career.
“I will always be a daddy’s girl – when you saw him, you saw me,” said daughter Rayshell Minus-Rolle. “He was a great man, respectful, caring, loving and he cared for anyone and everyone. When it came to the boxers and Bahamians at large, and the world at large, he was there. He made himself available. He fought a good fight and we all love him, but Jesus loves him best. I love him and he will be missed.”
Minus was a former Bahamian featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight champion, a Commonwealth Boxing Council’s (CBC) bantamweight champion, a World Boxing Council’s (WBC) Continental of Americas bantamweight champion and a World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Inter-Continental super bantamweight champion. He also fought for a legitimate world title three times and is the only Bahamian to do so.
Following his competitive career, Minus served as a boxing consultant in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and as an instructor at the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex National Boxing Center. He was inducted into The Bahamas’ National Sports Hall of Fame in November of last year.
The Bahamian boxing legend ended his professional career with a win/loss/draw/no contest record of 37-9-1-1 with 27 knockouts (KOs) in 48 pro fights.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg said the country has lost a great boxer and statesman, the sad news of which has rocked the sports world.
“He was passionate about paving the way for our future fighters and worked tirelessly imparting his knowledge and creating opportunities for so many,” said the minister in a statement. “Minus taught youngsters from our inner city communities and inspired new generations of athletes to train, to focus and to dream of the many possibilities in the sport of boxing. Minus served dutifully as an employee of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture for nearly a decade, only recently retiring.
“The Bahamas has lost a boxing icon and a mentor in the sport of boxing. As a country, we cannot repay Minus for his immeasurable contributions made in the sport of boxing.
“On behalf of the Government of The Bahamas, the nation, and members of staff at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, I extend prayerful condolences to the family and friends of Ray Minus Jr. My deepest sympathies are also extended to the local and international boxing communities. May God strengthen you all during this time of bereavement.”
Boxing Federation of The Bahamas’ President Vincent Strachan called Minus a great warrior and a great champion.
“Ray fought the great fight. He finished his course – hence what is laid up for him is a crown in glory,” said Strachan. “He gave selflessly of himself to the development of boxing at all levels in the world. He is greatly missed and will be very difficult to replace. My heartfelt condolences goes out to his family. On behalf of my family and the Boxing Federation of The Bahamas, I pray that Almighty God will strengthen his family and give comfort and peace in their time of bereavement. May his soul rest in peace and rise in glory.”
Some of Minus’ fiercest local battles were against Quincy ‘Thrill-A-Minute’ Pratt – a fierce adversary he defeated all three times they faced each other. Internationally, he has fought and has won fights all over the world. Minus won and then successfully defended his Commonwealth title five times, and won and then successfully defended his WBC Continental of Americas title. In his three world title bouts, he lost his WBC World Bantamweight fight to Colombian Miguel ‘Happy’ Lora at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami, Florida, in 1987, he dropped the World Boxing Organization’s (WBO) World Bantamweight title fight to Venezuelan Israel Contreras inside the Crystal Palace Ballroom in Nassau, The Bahamas, in 1990, and lost in his International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) World Bantamweight title opportunity to American Orlando Cañizales at the Civic Center Arena in Laredo, Texas, USA, in 1991.
He got his first professional victory, in his first pro fight, against Mexican Angel Torres in Nassau, in 1982, and ended his professional career with a technical knockout (TKO) loss to American Leavander Johnson for a vacant WBC Continental of Americas lightweight title at the Bally’s Atlantic City Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 2001. In between, Minus was a fierce and strategical pugilist who was known for exceptional defense in the ring, speed, foot movements, dancing and timely connections and combinations. In fact, in an interview just two years ago with The Ring Magazine, former WBC Bantamweight Champion Miguel ‘Happy’ Lora, now 62, had nothing but high praise of Minus.
“That guy was tough to hit. I won that fight by unanimous decision, but that was one of my tougher fights. He made me work for everything I got. His defense was very impressive. To get in on him was difficult,” said Lora.
He continued: “His hand speed was superb. He was a fast guy all around. Sometimes fighters couldn’t find me, but Minus was able to tag me a couple of times because of his hand speed. A couple of times I had to watch out for his jab and he threw good combinations and the speed they came at really caused me trouble.
“Also, I really admired his footwork. He made me try to cut off the ring because his footwork was so quick and so good.”
That brief synopsis is from a former world champion – a testament to the quality of fighter Minus was in the ring.
He was a legend outside of the ring as well though, assisting in taking hundreds of young men off the streets of New Providence and turning them into boxing champions. Any young boxer of note in the late nineties, early 2000s and into the 2010s came up under Ray Minus Jr. and his Champion Amateur Boxing Club (CABC). The club served the boxing community as an outlet for talented young men for more than 20 years, initially operating from the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex National Boxing Center and later from the location it shared with First Class Promotions on Wulff Road opposite Whim Automotive Ltd.
In one of his last interviews, with ZNS Sportscaster Charles Fisher, Minus said that boxing will always be his love and among the aspects he misses the most are training and teaching young talented fighters about general boxing skills and life itself.
At one point, Minus had seven regional boxing champions under his wing – Jermaine ‘Choo Choo’ Mackey with four titles, Meacher ‘Major Pain’ Major with two titles and Elkeana ‘The Punisher’ Saunders with the other. Former and current Bahamian boxing stars such as Jerry ‘Big Daddy’ Butler, Tureano ‘Reno’ Johnson, Carl Hield, Alpachino Allen, Anthony ‘Cougass’ Major, Shimon Bain, Ivan Major, Keishno Major, Valentino Knowles and Lennox Boyce just to name a few, all came up under Minus.
“Ray had one of the largest stables in terms of young up-and-coming boxers. He produced numerous top boxers who went on to be international champions. Without fear of contradiction, I could say that he was one of the best coaches we have had in this country in boxing in the last few decades. He was true to what he did,” said Ray’s ex-wife Michelle Munnings who was there through many of her ex-husband’s boxing journeys. “Ray lived, slept and drank boxing. The whole Bahamas is grieving today and there will never be another. He is like Angelo Dundee (legendary American boxing trainer) – he will go down as one of the most elite coaches in this country’s history and he enjoyed what he did. Never once did he look for pay or accolades – he just loved it and lived it.”
Minus was admitted to the hospital about two weeks ago suffering from shortness of breath and breathing complications. He was on a ventilator, had a feeding tube installed and was also diagnosed with pneumonia. Minus was scheduled for surgery Thursday morning, but never made it into the surgical theater as his blood count was too low. He succumbed at 9:25 Thursday morning.
“Ray was loved all over the world and it shows by the number of calls we have received from people from all over the world,” said Munnings. “When we went to the Commonwealth Games in England in 2002, and we did the walk-through, the Queen asked ‘where is Ray Minus?’. She said she wanted to have lunch with Ray, and later, Ray was having lunch with her, sitting just eight seats down from the Queen. He was a legend. Everyone respected him because every time he came to fight, he was in shape and he brought his best.
“When he fought Israel Contreras, his jaw was broken from round two and he went straight up to nine rounds before Dr. Rashad made the call to stop the fight. That was at Crystal Palace. When he fought Miguel ‘Happy’ Lora at the Miami Beach Convention Center in 1987, there were more Bahamians in attendance than foreigners. The Bahamas took over the stadium that night. Everywhere you looked, you saw a Bahamian flag. It was just phenomenal and prestigious,” added Munnings.
Ray Minus Jr. is survived by his daughter Rayshell Minus-Rolle, father Ray Minus Sr., mother Alice Minus, a number of siblings including former Bahamian heavyweight and cruiserweight champion Reynaldo Minus and former boxer Kenny ‘Lightning’ Minus, son-in-law Terez Rolle, and grandchildren Terell and Teray Rolle.
Ray’s ex-wife Munnings has been a staple of support as well, organizing the all-female professional boxing show that was held at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium last month from which proceeds went in aid of Minus’ health and medical expenses. Hundreds of current and former boxers, members of the boxing and sporting community, and Bahamians in general, came out in support of Minus that night. Munnings is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of First Class Promotions, the boxing entity that shared an outlet with Ray Minus’ Champion Amateur Boxing Club (CABC) on Wulff Road.
The late L. Garth Wright, a former Bahamian boxing legend, was Ray Minus’ uncle and so is Sidney ‘Bobby Baylor’ Fernander, a softball legend in the country.
The Bahamian sports legend will certainly be missed.