A national hero died on Sunday.
I remember vividly, the first time I saw Leonard “Boston Blackie” Miller, with full recognition as to who he really was.
This was back in the late 1950s (I think 1959 was the year) at a time when spectators lined the streets along the route of bicycle races on the capital island of New Providence. Big, tall Alexander “The Whip” Harris was the leading rider at the time. My father had brought to me the corner of Mackey and Bay Street. That was our vantage point as we waited with others in the general area for the riders to flash by. The first group of riders came in sight.
“You see that one out front, on the inside of The Whip?… that’s Boston Blackie,” so said my father.
Yes, there was Boston, aggressively challenging the much heftier and robust-looking Harris. We heard later on that Harris actually won the race and Boston was third, with Christopher “Duece” Thompson slipping in for second. A certain Bertram “Cowboy” Musgrove made up the top four (all sporting legends, National Sports Hall of Fame caliber athletes).
I was about 10 at the time and had absolutely no idea as to how, in such a detailed fashion, fate would have me connecting with Boston Blackie in the years to follow – ironically, not too long after that fateful Sunday afternoon, on the corner, just across from the old Potter’s Cay Dock.
In fact, it was in 1968 when he was just back from winning the silver medal at the New York Golden Gloves, in New York City that Bert Perry came and told me that he had spoken with several others and they agreed with him that an amateur boxing organization should be formed in The Bahamas. He told me that I would be the secretary. Thus, a number of historic stories were to unfold, of which Boston Blackie was a feature character.
Perry and Boston would begin a four-fight series the next year, May 1 of 1969, marking the first of three victories for Perry, although highly controversial. Boston would win once. Their rivalry characterized a special period in Bahamaland. Bahamians competed fiercely, but once the competitions were over, they joined forces to foster the growth of a country.
In that regard, in 1969, with the Amateur Boxing Association of the Bahamas (ABAB) – since transitioned to the Amateur Boxing Federation of The Bahamas and now simply the Bahamas Boxing Federation – finally connected through official documents with the International Boxing Association (AIBA), Perry solicited Boston’s presence along with his club of boxers to join the formal organization in the country. Boston agreed right away.
Several years later when Perry opted to take up residence in Grand Bahama, as president at the time, I asked Boston to replace him and he did without hesitation. There began our gratifying relationship. For years, Boston and I took boxers to compete in the Florida Golden Gloves Tournaments. I got to really know the manner of a man God had blessed this country with.
Let me point out here with emphasis that all along, while dedicating so much of his time to crafting youthful ringsters into quality athletes and budding adults, Boston somehow found the time and additional energies to train and compete in pro boxing events, cycling races, and later on, conduct high school physical education sessions.
A rich page in his legacy is the fact that on the morning after he lost the heavyweight crown (he earlier had regained from Perry), Boston was up at the crack of dawn and was the first cyclist on the line for a major road race. Indeed, Boston had been beaten at the Oakes Field Hanger that night, and the very next morning, there he was at the entrance to the same Oakes Field Hanger, on the line across from Oakes Monument in Oakes Field, ready to fulfill another huge sports task.
Boston is one of the select icons who represented the country internationally in two or more sporting disciplines. He became a figure of good folklore material to his regional and world peers in cycling. In boxing, Boston was known as the old maestro of ring cornermen.
There is no doubt, he was highly significant to organized amateur boxing in The Bahamas in its embryonic stage and throughout.
The name Boston Blackie came to be synonymous with local cycling. He was one of the notable light heavy and heavyweight champions of the country.
In his role as physical education teacher, Boston nurtured and motivated many students for decades.
Leonard “Boston Blackie” Miller, 82, who passed away on Sunday, was a man for all seasons, and truly one of a kind; one of those irreplaceable beings that God graced this earth with.
On behalf of the Bahamas Boxing Commission and the commissioners, I extend condolences to the family of Boston.
May his soul forever rest in peace!
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