Ref rings change after 53 years
Peter Leonard's amazing contribution to boxing is finally over, 53 years after he first became a judge then referee.
Earlier this month, he judged his last bout and last week he was made the patron of the New Zealand Referees and Judges Association, a deserved accolade after a fine career.
Leonard's achievements in five-plus decades in the sport are too many to list but there have certainly been highlights.
However, he puts the success of his long career down to the support of his wife, Joy.
"She really been my mentor and helped me all along the way.
"When I was going for my IBA ticket, Joy fired all the questions and learned all the rules."
Leonard first became involved in boxing as an 8-year-old in Fairlie and had his first bout at 11.
At 18 he represented Waimate as a lightweight in the New Zealand Boxing Championships.
He started his judging career at Timaru Boys' High School in 1960 and four years later was a national judge and followed up in 1970 as a national referee.
There have been many international appointments, including officiating at two Commonwealth Games.
He has also been a great contributor at the grassroots and was president of the Timaru Boxing Association for 30 years, in two stints.
Under his stewardship Timaru Boxing is also in a good financial position.
Leonard's only embarrassing moment came when he rushed from rugby practice in Timaru to Ashburton to referee some bouts and left his white shirt behind.
"I had to take one off a guy who had come to watch."
His highlights include refereeing in Tonga at the Oceania Games.
"Like boxers, you know when you have had a good one and that was what happened in Tonga."
Watching Wellingtonian Michael Kenny win gold in the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland was another highlight.
"He was one of the best boxers I've seen in New Zealand and his dad was a good coach."
Leonard's longevity in the sport means some of his favourite local boxers go back a way.
"Lex Ashton was very good, Roger Leonard from Temuka could certainly box and Roy Peters was another. Peters never won a New Zealand title but was robbed."
Tony Godkin and Tony Atwood also make Leonard's list.
"Atwood was one of those guys who never really got hit much, a clever boxer with good feet."
He has also judged and refereed the likes of top Kiwis Kevin Barry, David Tua and Shane Cameron.
Leonard also fondly remembers the late 50s and early 60s when boxing was at its peak.
"There was a lot of pro boxing as well but Timaru would have bouts every Thursday night, and Oamaru on a Monday."
In between, Leonard was busy judging and refereeing in places such as Studholme, Fairlie and Pleasant Point.
As to why he has finally retired, Leonard's explanation is simple.
"I remember being a young guy criticising the old boys for hanging in too long - it is just time to go.
"I'm getting old - being made the patron proves that."
Leonard said as well as good memories he had made a lot of good friends over time.
"I just got a card from my fellow referees and judges who were at the nationals, and was blown away by it and what they said."
Leonard has also clocked up tens of thousands of kilometres throughout the country, mainly in the South Island, travelling to tournaments in those 53 years, but has loved every minute of it.
While Leonard will no longer be officially involved, he will still be going to tournaments around the South Island to show his support, with Joy, of course.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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