In Nelson's Bishopdale scout den three nights a week during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Les Rackley coached young athletes to become champions.
As one of New Zealand's most respected boxing coaches, Rackley last night took his place among Sport Tasman's Legends of Sport.
Often criticised for his no-nonsense approach with his boxers and his strict training regimes, Rackley was nevertheless able to extract the best from his boxers with a typical two-hour workout including skipping, bag work and exercises for fitness and sparring.
This ultimately led to 55 New Zealand titles, 20 South Island titles and the 50 or more provincial titles being won under his tutelage by Nelson boxers, between 1968 and 1986.
Rackley himself fought as a welterweight in England, learning his craft in the army and the merchant navy before immigrating to New Zealand in 1949. He coached and trained New Zealand boxing teams from 1972 to 1982, a period which included the 1974 and 1982 Commonwealth Games and the Oceania Games in 1973 and 1975.
During this period, he received the Joe Thwaites Memorial Shield on five different occasions as coach of the winner of the Jameson Belt, awarded to the most scientific senior boxer at the New Zealand championships. His son, Jeff, won the belt on three of those occasions and the others were fellow stable-mates Alan McNamara and Barry Galbraith. McNamara later turned professional and went on to win the Australasian light heavyweight title.
Rackley's boxers were renowned for their defensive qualities and seven were selected to box for their country, including his own four sons: Jeff represented New Zealand at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games; Les (junior) competed in the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games where he won bronze in the middleweight division; and Dean and Perry were in the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games. McNamara, his father, Graeme, and Galbraith also wore the silver fern.
- The Nelson Mail