Boxing is one of the oldest sports at Royal College, Colombo. According to the “History of Royal College– 1985 – 2010”, written by a distinguished old boy, Larlasri Fernando, the school founded in 1835 by Rev. Joseph Marsh, was first known as the Hill Street Academy and housed on Wolfendall Street, Colombo and became the Colombo Academy in January 1836, when it was shifted to San Sebastian Hill.
Thereafter in 1881 under Principal J.B. Cull, with the patronage of the then colonial government Colombo Academy changed its name to Royal College as it moved to Colombo 07, to the Colombo university premises in 1913 and to the present location in 1917.
Boxing, the contact sport with colonial overtones was introduced to the school in 1913 by Donald Obeyesekere, the father of Danton Obeyesekere, a Cambridge university boxing Blue and without doubt the doyen of boxing in Sri Lanka, who went on to coach boxers at Royal College for over 50 years and since then Royal College has produced some reputed boxers. Danton’s philosophy for the sport was to “hit without getting hit,” in other words he advocated typical scientific boxing. Those of us who followed this rule succeeded in the ring, emerging victorious in many bouts. The contributions of P Rajendran as boxer and coach alongside Danton Obeyesekere is also appreciated.
Cricket is the oldest sport at Royal, introduced in 1876 by Ashley Walker, a teacher in the school who was a Cambridge Blue. The first Royal-Thomian cricket match was played in 1879.
The first Bradby Shield rugby encounter between Royal and Trinity College was in 1945. On this occasion the Royal team was captained by CDL Fernando and the Trinity captain was Robert G. Sourjah. Trinity won the Bradby and rugby was also introduced about the time boxing made its debut at Royal in 1919-20.
Last year marked Boxing’s 110th year of existence in the school and the anniversary was held on Saturday December 9, 2023 at the Cavalry Officers’ Mess at the Sri Lanka Army Armoured Corps at Rock House Camp at Modera, Colombo 15.
The event was organized by the Royal College Boxing Advisory Council, whose chairman is former Army Commander retired General Jagath Jayasuriya and his guidance and leadership led to the 110th Anniversary celebrations becoming a reality in the context that boxing at Royal had hit the doldrums in the recent past.
The occasion was graced by the present principal Thilak Wattuhewa, the senior Games Master and assistant principal Riyaz Aluher and the Master in charge of boxing TMRN Bandara.
Photographs were taken of all the past captains present, those who represented the country in boxing and the unique photograph of boxers who had won the senior best boxers’ trophy, the TY Wright Challenge Cup at the prestigious Stubbs Shield boxing championships. In this category the sole boxer to pose for the photograph with the principal was none other than General Jagath Jayasuriya, the college boxing captain in 1977, a unique singular achievement.
The anniversary celebrations merit mention of some of the past outstanding boxing personalities, who stand out as glaring icons in Royal College boxing history. They were Danton Obeyesekere, his father Donald Obeyesekere, the founder of boxing at the College, Barney Henricus, Alex Obeyesekere, Frederick Obeyesekere, Eddie Gray, Metha Abeygunawardena, Rahula Silva, Saman Samaratunga, SSJ Perera and M.A. Jayalath, N.R. Tillekeratne, Jagath Jayasuriya, late Lt. Hishaam Ousman, Aubrey Peiris, M. Nisthar and Abdulla Ibunu of a more contemporary era from 1970s onwards, to the present. Some of them are no more as time has snatched them away as the way of all living beings.
Mention must also be made of two Royalists, who passionately assisted and supported boxing in the school, in Dian Gomes, the current president of the Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), in donating a brand-new modern boxing ring to the college in the mid 1980s and in Priantha Malavi, for his steadfast behind the scene assistance and support to the boxers, in administrative and connected technical matters from the 1970s.
Some of the former College boxers domiciled in the US, UK and Canada contributed financially by way of donations and purchasing of tickets.
Present on this historic moment were old boy boxers from several past eras. As an act of appreciation and for fostering of boxing in their Alma mater, the following were the attendees, to mark the historic occasion:
1960-1970: Commodore GES de Silva, Metha Abeygunawardena, Saman Samaratunga, KTP De Silva, MS Fernando
1970-1980: Wazir Sourjah, Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya, YD Weerasooriya, M.A. Jayalath, Rohan Abeywardena, Nimal Jayasuriya, Shantha Kumara, Refai Buhary, Nalin Dayasagara, Rukmal Nanayakkara, DCL Ketagoda, Anura Uduwaraarachchi, Prasad Majeed, Sunanda Godawithana, Shamrath Fernando, T. Sopaka, Ajith Bopitiya
1980-1990: Maj. Gen. Rajitha Ampemohotti, Sidath Tillakaratna, Allaam Ousman, Aubrey Peiris, Don Weerasinghe, Buddhima, Chandima Gunarathna, Herath Bandara, T.W. Herath, R.S. Kumarapperuma and Maj. R. Rajapakse
1990-2000: Lakshman Amarasekera, Dhanushka Ekanayake, Muditha Cooray, Kanchana Ayantha, Sameera Deshapriya, Rasika Amarasinghe, Ranil Sanjeewa, Indika Kuruppuarachchi, Sumeda Perera and S. Manoharan
2001-2010; Sanka Manamperi, Pivithuru Ratnayake, Danushka Weerakkody, Visitha Wijesekera, Chatura Kathriarachchi, Supun De Silva, Sampath Wijayanath, Sudara Suren, Charana Bandara, M. Nishthar, Champika Gunasekara, Asanka Kumarasiri, Niroshan Deddenigama, M.N. Omar, Buddika Prasasd, Dhanushka Wijekoon, Manamendra Badhraka, M. Wasim, Manijitha Fonseka and Amila Nakandala
2011-2022: Ajith De Silva, Sanjeewa Wimalasena, Banuka Nayanajith, Rasika Panditharathna, Nisal Sedawaththa, K Sindujan, Viswa Panapitiya, Uvindu Jayasinghe, Saiyaf Farouk and Madani Musthapha
2023 Boxing team: USM Ahsan– present boxing captain, HAV Perera, Ibunu Abdulla (head coach), Esanda Bimsara and Rizwan Jamaldeen – coach.
The Boxing Advisory under the leadership of Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya is planning to streamline the administration of boxing along with the collaboration of the Royal Boxing Club (RBC).
In this, the areas of keeping proper records of the boxers, their achievements, the challenge trophies in the custody of the school and the conduct of the annual inter house boxing meets.
The boxing advisory is also planning a much-needed fund raiser to augment financial obligations to improve the sport in the school by holding a musical show, a Sing-a-long by Chandimal, the “Tribute to Legends” on Sunday March 3 at the Bishop’s College auditorium.
Royal College Boxing Captain – 1973 and retired Superintendent of Police