Kevin Barry Snr's death a loss to boxing

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2011
Kevin Barry senior
KIRK HARGREAVES
Kevin Barry senior

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The death of Canterbury boxing stalwart Kevin Barry Sr was a great loss to the sport and the hundreds of people he coached, friends say.

The former New Zealand coach and community worker died in Christchurch on Saturday, aged 74, after a long illness.

Myra Barry, his wife of more than 50 years, said her husband "dug his Irish toes in" despite being hospitalised five weeks ago.

In a boxing career spanning more than 60 years, Barry trained some of New Zealand's most successful fighters, including his son, Kevin Barry Jr, and Jimmy "Thunder" Peau.

He and Myra also dedicated their time to helping children, the underprivileged and those with disabilities.

They ran a social welfare home for 11 years and organised a Christmas toy drive for 16 years.

Boxing New Zealand chairman John McKay said Barry was one of the country's most successful coaches and a "sad loss" to the sport.

He guided his son to silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and Peau to gold at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.

His gruelling training programmes were also experienced by Crusaders rugby players, while New Zealand cricketers Shane Bond and Nathan Astle credited Barry for helping them return from injuries fitter and stronger players.

"I know he hasn't been involved actively for a year or so because of his health, but certainly he was a force to be reckoned with," McKay said.

Barry's promotion of boxing in a "really positive way" was under-rated, he said.

"He's left quite a legacy in Canterbury and a challenge for other boxing coaches in New Zealand to see if we can beat him."

A competitive boxer for many years, Barry's career in the ring was hindered when he fell ill with rheumatic fever as a a youngster.

At 25, he opened his first gym at Christ the King in Burnside.

"The love of boxing was always there, being Irish," Myra Barry said.

Her husband enjoyed coaching groups of young people as much as he did New Zealand teams, she said.

"He was a damn good coach, but anything to do with kids was his forte.

"Nobody knows just what he's done; the money he's raised for different things."

In 2009, he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport. It followed an MBE in 1995.

Barry closed his Belfast gym in 2009, but his retirement was short-lived. The gym reopened in his garage just weeks later.

"I've done this for too long. I can't walk away now," he had said.

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He refused to quit the sport right to the end.

"Even when he was in hospital he said, `I think I'll take two young boys to train when I get home'," Myra Barry said.

- The Press

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