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