Olympic Robber



Reported in the Bermuda press, early 1997:

Boxing: Bermuda's lone moment of glory came in 1976 when Clarence Hill took the bronze in Montreal. Four men have represented the country with Quinn Paynter being the last one in 1988. Since then, the sport has fallen on hard times and is virtually non-existent except for a couple of bouts per year.

Tony McWilliam reported:

TWO ex-inmates yesterday made an impassioned plea to Government to rescue a small business which they say is keeping them out of jail.  The carpentry workshop where they work desperately needs an injection of cash, and without it they fear being sucked back into a vacuum of joblessness and crime.

"We have taken the first step to mending our ways for the better," said former Olympic boxer and convicted robber Clarence Hill, "and if Government is serious about rehabilitation, here is their opportunity to show it."

Clarence Hill, 45, has spent a decade in jail off and on for drug-related offences, and was released earlier this month after a three-year stretch for robbery.

He learned carpentry in prison and is now trying to earn some money at the workshop and get his life back on track.

Bermuda Sun Newspaper - November 10, 1998 

King of the ring

By Don Burgess

NO ONE in Bermuda's sport's history touches the emotions as Clarence Hill does. To some, he is a man who squandered a great talent; but to others he is a man who's potential was done in by the system and a lack of support.

Hill received his first training at the Pembroke Youth Centre under Stanley Trimm. Allan (Forty) Rego would be Hill's next trainer and Rego saw a lot of potential in the young southpaw.

Rego said: "He was a difficult person to train because he was so carefree. He wouldn't really settle down, but he was cocky."  Part of that carefree attitude got him in trouble: He was convicted of marijuana possession when he was 19 years old. It would set an unfortunate pattern Hill would have throughout his life. He reached what would prove to be the pinnacle of his career in the heavyweight division at the 1976 Olympics. A fortunate draw meant that Hill would not have to compete against Tefilo Stevenson and John Tate unless he reached the final.

His first fight was against Parviz Badpa of Iran. It wasn't much of a boxing match: Hill picked up a technical knock-out after 2:41 of the second round when he bloodied Badpa's mouth and nose. After the bout Hill said: "I could hear the Bermudians in the crowd cheering me and it gave me a good feeling. After the first few times we traded punches, I knew I could take him. He was slower than me and I could see his punches coming."

Hill won a decision against Belgian Rudy Gauwe and was then pitted against Romanian Mircea Simon.

The winner earning the right to take on Stevenson for the gold, the loser taking home the bronze. But an inflamed left arm sapped all the strength from his punches. Hill said afterwards: "I knew he had beaten me as soon as the last bell sounded. I wanted to do good for Bermuda, but my left arm was useless. I couldn't land a decent punch."

Hill was charged with possession of marijuana in 1978, an event that would prove to have dire consequences eight years later.

He stayed an amateur after the Olympics and beat American Jimmy Clark, who had given Hill his only loss in Bermuda, in a rematch in January 1979. He contemplated turning pro at the end of the year and was offered to be trained by George Francis in England. At the time Francis said: "Clarence could become the hottest property in heavyweight boxing. He's a natural."

But while he was in England, an anonymous person sent a letter about his marijuana conviction to the British Boxing Board of Control -- and Hill came home after his finances ran out.

He briefly thought about fighting in the 1980 Olympics but that was rejected by local Olympic officials. They said he was still considered a pro because he had accepted some money.

With no chance at the Olympic, Hill made his professional debut in April 1980 against David Fry in London, England. That bout did not last long as Fry was knocked out in the first round.Hill would knock out his first nine opponents, with only two of those fights lasting longer than two rounds.

Rego said: "Clarence was a difficult southpaw because he fought you straight on and then he'd twitch on you. He did it in such a smooth way, you didn't even know he was twitching."  Hill racked up an impressive 11-0 record before getting a shot at Tony Tubbs in August of 1982. Hill lost a split decision to Tubbs, who went on to defeat Mike Weaver for a share of the heavyweight title. Rego said: "That fight left something to be desired. Clarence was beating him rather easily. That was the first time that Tubbs had ever been down. He dropped Tubbs in the first round rather easily."

Hill won his next two bouts and was set to face lightly-regarded Walter Santemore in 1983. But Hill's mother died, and his thoughts were far from the ring as he trained. Santemore would be the only person to knock Hill out, with a fourth round KO. His next big match was against unbeaten Jimmy Clark in New York in 1984. Hill lost a tough 10-round decision.

Clark would say afterwards: "Clarence is an outstanding fighter. For people to say he isn't, they certainly haven't been in the ring with him. I think he has a future in front of him, but he must live right. If he does the things a fighter should, then he should be all right. The fight with Clark cost Hill a shot at the vacant World Athletic Association title against Eddie (Animal) Lopez. He was battered by Clark and doctors recommended that he retire from the sport.

Hill did retire for two years but made his comeback against Terry Mimms in 1986. The rust was showing from a two-year lay-off, but Hill won the decision after a 10-round battle. He knocked out Mike Perkins in the third round two months later, but that would be his last fight.

Coming back home to Bermuda was a disaster for Hill. He was not allowed back into the U.S. because of his drug conviction in 1978. Soon, everything would collapse around the boxer. His marriage ended in divorce, and various brushes with the law culminated with his conviction on a cocaine charge in 1990.

He said in a press report: "I am sorry for what I did. I need help with my addiction." Hill felt he never got the recognition he deserved. He said in one interview: "The people of this country have nothing for Clarence Hill. For one who won the country's first Olympic medal...they have given me a lot of hassles...I haven't received anything but criticism."

Whatever people want to say bout his life after boxing, they cannot take away that he was a brilliant fighter -- one who owns Bermuda's brightest moment on the Olympic stage.

Rego said: "He was Bermuda's greatest heavyweight. He was quite a difficult person for people to fight. I felt he could have gone all the way if he had a little assistance. He had a lot of heartbreaks. I think he was underrated as far as boxers are concerned in Bermuda."




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