Re­spect­ed­box­ing coachdies

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - KRIS DANDO

Tough as teak. Old school. Hugely re­spected.

The tributes flowed for Ti­tahi Bay box­ing coach Chris Kenny, who died last week, aged 78.

Billy Gra­ham said when he was set­ting up his box­ing academy in Nae­nae in 2005, it was Kenny he went to for ad­vice.

‘‘Chris had more than 50 years run­ning his gym [in Ti­tahi Bay] and was very good to me,’’ Gra­ham said.

‘‘He said there were rules you needed to have and that you had to put your heart and soul into it, but not to for­get about my fam­ily out­side the gym.’’

Gra­ham said Kenny – a New Zealand and Aus­tralasian cham­pion dur­ing his box­ing days – was tough but fair.

‘‘He had his way of do­ing things. I held him in the high­est re­spect be­cause he had in­tegrity. It’s sad be­cause he touched so many lives and loved help­ing kids.’’

Kenny, who served in the Bri­tish Army, started the hard way, learn­ing to box grow­ing up in Lim­er­ick, Ire­land.

He told The Do­min­ion Post in 2011, upon be­ing made an Of­fi­cer of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit, that ‘‘we punched the hell out of each other in and out of the gym’’.

Kenny was New Zealand na­tional coach from 1993 to 1997. He took the team to the At­lanta Olympics, was na­tional di­rec­tor of coach­ing for eight years and was part of the Olympic Sol­i­dar­ity move­ment, coach­ing in such places as North Korea and Bangladesh.

He was made a life mem­ber of Box­ing New Zealand in 2006 and re­ceived many ser­vice to sport awards in Porirua and Welling­ton.

Kenny trained sev­eral cham­pi­ons, in­clud­ing son Michael – a gold medal­list at the 1990 Auck­land Com­mon­wealth Games – Steve Ren­wick, Greg Weenink, Leti Emilio, Danny Hed­ifen and Rex Red­den snr.

Rex Red­den jnr, a world kick­box­ing cham­pion, said watch­ing his father train with Kenny was mem­o­rable.

‘‘I was about 6 and see­ing that gym, with all its posters and the noise, was some­thing else,’’ he said. ‘‘Years later I’d go back and spar and take my fight­ers there. Chris was al­ways wel­com­ing.

‘‘He was re­lent­less in the ring, with the pads, but out of the ring was easy to talk to and have a laugh with. Chris was the last of the old school.’’

Kenny had been ill for a year fol­low­ing a stroke.

PHOTO: FAIRFAX NZ

Chris Kenny at his beloved box­ing gym in Ti­tahi Bay in 2011.

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