Selfless trainer of champion boxers
Boxing was Peter Bell’s lifelong passion and it surged through his blood. Four generations of his family had New Zealand championships, and Bell himself represented his country on the international stage.
But he gave much more than his fighting prowess to the sport, training many aspiring young boxers – many of whom went on to win national championships – free of charge from his back yard in Christchurch formore than 40 years.
Former Canterbury Boxing Association president Julian Scully said Bell was a well-respected coach and was never short of helpful advice for fighters.
‘‘His boxing knowledgewas awesome, he was always making us work on the jab.
‘‘The jabwas always important [to him] because he [liked] scientific boxing, so [using] a lot of skill, and it all led off the jab.
‘‘There were a lot of champions that he produced from [his] gym.’’
Bell was not only a great coach, Scully said, but also a great guy, andwas known to take struggling boxers from other clubs under his wing.
‘‘He always took his time to say ‘gidday’ and see how youwere going, he’d always call you ‘champ’ ...
‘‘He’d give you tips on the things you needed to work on and let you know you can go further and [you should] look at setting some goals.’’
Peter Bell, who has died aged 78, was born to parents Frank and Margaret Bell in Greymouth in 1942, one of eight children.
An adventurous child, he loved swimming and hunting with his father and siblings. He also enjoyed rugby and boxing, which he carried on throughout his twenties.
His sporting prowess came in spite of having a love of icecream, which stemmed from growing up with a father who ran his own milk bar on the West Coast.
In 1963 Bell moved north to Hamilton to train and live with Commonwealth Games boxer-turned-trainer Eddie Morrison.
The move paid off, and he made the New Zealand boxing team that year, touring Australia. ‘‘Hewas very proud to wear the fern and represent his country,’’ son Chris said.
The following year, at a party, Bell met Patricia Chambers, who was in her second year of teacher training. It was love at first sight and the pair began dating.
After graduating, Chambers took a job at Awakeri School in the Bay of Plenty, with Bell working at the Matahena Dam about 26 kilometres to the south.
The pair continued to date, and married on January 8, 1966, in Edgecumbe.
They had four children – Tony, Greg, Paige and Chris. They moved to Christchurch, where Bell set up a boxing gym in his back yard in Somerfield.
‘‘There was no such word as ‘can’t’, no shortcuts and no excuses. It was a very successful boxing gym, having many New Zealand champions and representatives,’’ Chris said.
‘‘The true success was measured by the kids who walked in with problems but walked out as good men.’’
His fatherwas alsowidely known for his unorthodox cures for ailments.
‘‘His medicines of choice were a comfrey poultice, garlic, cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar.’’
Bell worked for many years in the freezingworks in Belfast, Christchurch, and took on a variety of jobs during the off-season.
He was a panelbeater by trade but also tried his hand at welding, concreting, fishing, plastering and personal training, and also had his own lawnmowing, sawmill and gourmet foods businesses.
‘‘He loved a laugh, didn’tmind a few pigs’ ears and stayed young by spending time with his children, grandchildren and a lot of his boxerswho had now turned into men,’’ Chris said.
Bell is survived by Patricia and their children. – By Jonathan Guildford