‘Not only should Lewis Crocker have fought for NI, he should have been captain’

Michael Hawkins was head coach at Lewis Crocker's boxing club
Michael Hawkins was head coach at Lewis Crocker's boxing club

Lewis Crocker, the boxer who has settled an anti-Protestant discrimination case, should not only have been on the Commonwealth team but should have captained it.

That is the view of the former head coach of the Sandy Row fighter’s west Belfast boxing club, Michael Hawkins.

The Equality Commission said that Lewis had trained at two clubs which would have been perceived as being Protestant, before moving to one in the heart of republican west Belfast.

It was there, Holy Trinity Boxing Club, he trained for the Commonwealth squad as part of his failed bid to make the five-man team.

He was not selected, and believes everyone selected was Catholic.

He took a court case against the selection body, the Ulster Boxing Council, and has now settled out of court for £8,500 (though it has not admitted liability).

Holy Trinity’s head coach Mr Hawkins told the News Letter that not only should Lewis have been on the Commonwealth squad, but that “without a doubt he was the man – he was to captain the team”.

Mr Hawkins, in his early 60s, is not convinced that sectarianism lay behind the decision not to pick Lewis and could not be sure what the motivation was.

But whatever the reason, he said Lewis was “wrongly done by, without a doubt”.

“He’s received some money, which doesn’t solve everything,” he said.

“They’ll never repay him for the experience, or for the hurt that’s gone on.”

He indicated there has been a change of personnel at the Ulster Boxing Council since 2015.

When it comes to the way it selects boxers from now on, he said: “It should be named the Crocker Criteria.

“Then people will ask: ‘why the Crocker criteria?’ – and let it be told.”

Mr Hawkins hails from a nationalist/Catholic background in the west of the city, but stressed sport is what matters and community background does not come into it.

He added: “The best boxer, the best man, has to go – regardless of who he is or what he is. Lewis’ daddy Ricky said the same thing – if it doesn’t happen again, at least something concrete has come out of it.”

Lewis himself said he had chosen Holy Trinity because it was “the best club without a doubt”, and that he “definitely” did not come across sectarianism whilst there.

Nobody from the IABA (which has now renamed itself the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, instead of Irish Amateur Boxing Association) could be reached.