Fire still burns in low-key trainer Kevin Barry

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 09:28 16/06/2013
Kevin Barry
KEVIN BARRY: "Life's good. Now I'm back doing what I love - what is my passion, working with young fighters. So I'm highly motivated at the moment, and very pumped with my life."

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Call it a boxer's instinct - that when the spotlight is turned on and burning bright, you step into its glare.

Let the photographers' lenses snap, and you will pose; fists raised. Let the press ask their questions and you reply; full of bravado and confidence.

Let the advertisements roll on billboards and television screens - let people see your face. Make sure they remember your face - and who you are.

For the majority of his career in boxing, Kevin Barry has embodied this instinct. Since that controversial silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, he has never stepped away from an opportunity to get his name out there.

Through his days in the elite amateur ranks to his topsy-turvy spell as David Tua's manager, Barry has embraced almost every - no, every - opportunity to speak about boxing the way he saw it.

That leathery fighter's face, those piercing blue eyes, that schoolboy haircut that hasn't changed in decades - Barry's look is just as familiar as his speech.

Polished and proud - with any Kiwi roughness slicked over with a dash of Las Vegas, the notorious town he has called home since 2005.

It's the Barry way, and has been for years. Which is why his last week back in New Zealand has been so peculiar.

The 53-year-old was in Auckland for last Thursday's fight between Joseph Parker, who he has been training in Sin City over the past two months, and the lovably loutish South African heavyweight Francois Botha.

Yet, perhaps for the first time in Barry's boxing life, he appeared more than content to stand out of that limelight.

He had the opportunity at any of Duco's pre-fight hype moments. He had it again after his boy Parker dealt to Botha, knocking out the White Buffalo in the second round at Trusts Stadium.

And while he spoke, he didn't wrestle any microphones, or become the main attraction. Barry looked happy enough being part of the journey - Parker's journey.

Maybe this year has seen a new Barry return to New Zealand. Maybe, he's mellowing a bit more with age.

"We're in a very good place," he told Sunday News last week, of his life at the moment. "I'm very happy with life. My wife is happy. Our children are going well. Our marriage is solid. Life's good. Now I'm back doing what I love - what is my passion, working with young fighters. So I'm highly motivated at the moment, and very pumped with my life."

Barry has been in Vegas since 2005 - a sanctuary perhaps from an increasingly tattered Kiwi reputation after the fallout he and former partner Martin Pugh faced following their rift with Tua.

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He's turned that sanctuary into a real home - making his money training corporate boxers and promising youngsters. He's well-connected up there - even counting UFC boss Dana White as a mate.

His three kids are now looking at applying for US citizenship - "they're little Americans now" - and he loves talking about how well they are doing over there.

Daughter Jordy, 20, has just graduated from Iowa's Luther College with a double degree - and is about to be accepted into the United States' top political science school.

Twin sons Mitch and Taylor, 18, are star American football players - with Mitch due to start a football scholarship at San Diego State University.

With a bit of luck, the free safety, who was named in the Nevada All-State team this year, could be beginning a track to the giddy heights of the NFL.

Yet as much as he is happy to talk about his buoyant family life in Vegas, start him talking about Parker and his eyes really light up.

How hard the two worked in Vegas and what Barry thinks of him - "a very special kid" - have been repeated over and over in the media.

But there seems to be a real sincerity to Barry's words. You can tell he really believes in this young South Aucklander.

"He does everything I ask of him," he said. "I don't do anything I don't believe in but if I tell him to go out and do something, he'll do it.

"I'm like, oh my God, you don't find fighters like that. He believes in me, and I believe in him.

"We've become really good mates in two months. We've spent so much time together . . . we spend a lot of time in the car getting this place and that.

"We have a lot of laughs. You can't be serious and grinding all the time. We have tons of fun. I'm excited to be part of the journey - because it's going to be a great journey."

Barry is still Barry. The hype is there in his words - even though he seems content to stand somewhat out of the limelight.

Barry wants to keep training Parker - the two are heading back to Vegas soon for another two months in the gym.

Ask him about the future, and you'll see those boxer's eyes light up again. In his words, you'll hear those old Barry lines.

Listen hard, and you'll know that he hasn't changed. "I plan on being with Joseph for a long time," Barry said, at the pre-fight weigh-ins. " We have very, very good chemistry. We both have worked very hard in the last two months.

"I gave him everything I could, and he gave me everything he could. The relationship we have looks like something that will be long-lasting." Barry then smiles, and says: "But boxing is boxing. You never know."

- Sunday News

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