During the 1950s with the television boom rapidly enveloping the world, North America was at the forefront. There was Andre Rodgers in baseball, but two other athletes were introducing The Bahama Islands in boxing rings around and world and on prime time television.
Reference is to Yama Bahama and Gomeo Brennan. Those two Bimini cousins who began their professional careers in 1953 and 1956 respectively, were synonymous with this small country just to the south of Florida. While Bahama did not fight outside of the United States often, he was this country’s first television star.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, his popularity was comparable to that of big screen star Sidney Poitier. Bahama was a regular on shows at Madison Square Garden when that facility was the most noted, worldwide in boxing. He was a television darling to many fistic fans and others who crossed over.
Bahama was poised in the ring and out. He intelligently interacted with the media and the boxing world. He was a good example of The Bahamas.
Brennan also, fought a lot in the United States, particularly at his base in Miami. He travelled however and connected countries like Germany, Italy, Denmark, England and New Zealand to the land of his birth, always conducting himself in a classy manner.
The exemplary characters of Bahama and Brennan, when they campaigned as professional boxers, contributed to the image of Bahamians and their country that was so greatly appreciated around the world.
At a time, when it was fashionable for fighters to take dives or work ring deals, Bahama and Brennan carried the name Bahamas with pride and dignity. They paved the way for others to follow.
It is the trend established by Yama and Gomeo that is being continued by the present day top Bahamian professionals, Sherman “Tank” Williams, Edner Cherry, Meacher Major, Taureano Johnson and Ryan McKenzie.
Bahama passed away two years ago at 76. Brennan is still sprightly. At age 75, he looks the picture of health and capable of mixing it up for a few rounds. In Miami where he has virtually lived since he as 18 years old, Brennan is easing into the sunset. He loves to reflect on the old days and opponents like Battling Douglas, Baby Boy Rolle and Leonard “Boston Blackie” Miller. He chuckles when he recalls his ring encounter with Blackie.
“I saw him watching my right hand and once when we clinched he said to me ‘now Gomeo don’t you cross the right on me.’ Needless to say, I didn’t cross with the right and we had a nice time in the ring.”
Brennan makes it to Bimini for special occasions and he always wonders about the familiarity “even the young” has with him.
“Look man, even the young, they know me. I’d be walking along the street in the dark and young and old would say ‘hey Gomie or what’s going Gomeo’ and they would just go on their merry way as though that’s something that happens every day. I tell you. That is a good feeling I get. I feel deeply connected to all of the generations in Bimini,” said Gomeo.
They admire their heroes in Bimini.
Bahama and Brennan were two of the finest, the ones who were quality Bahamian pioneers of international boxing.
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published Tuesday, August 19, 2014