Christchurch boxing guru Kevin Barry tried giving up the sport six months ago but knew in his heart he could never deliver the knockout blow. Barry, 73, who has been involved in boxing for more than 60 years, becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport. It follows his MBE in 1995. He and wife Myra have also fostered many children and backed several causes supporting young people.
The former national Olympic and Commonwealth Games coach is credited with producing some of New Zealand's finest boxers, notably his son, Kevin Jr, who won an Olympic silver medal in 1984. His gruelling training programmes have also been experienced by Crusaders rugby players, while New Zealand cricketers Shane Bond and Nathan Astle credit Barry for helping them return from injuries fitter and stronger players. Barry's latest honour was a "nice surprise".
"I just do what I do because I love it," he said. Barry said he shared the honour with his wife of 50 years, who is also a prominent boxing figure with a long stint in the sport's administration.
They have formed a formidable partnership in boxing and through their social work.
They ran a Social Welfare home in Bishopdale for 11 years and organised a city-wide toy collection for underprivileged children that distributed more than 180,000 toys over 16 years to community agencies and churches. Barry has also raised funds for community groups and sick children.
A competitive boxer for many years, his career in the ring was thwarted because he had had rheumatic fever at 12 or 13. He hung up the gloves in 1986, but still passes on his knowledge and experience by coaching aspiring boxers and mentoring at-risk youth.
Although he has trained some of the country's top boxers, it is his efforts with young boxers that still give him the greatest thrill. Seeing them enjoying themselves convinced him that his attempt at retirement, after closing Barry's Boxing Gymnasium in Belfast in July, would not last.
"I said enough was enough when I quit earlier this year, but I was back two weeks later. I just couldn't give up the boxing. "The doctor won't be too happy probably." Barry, who now uses a purpose-built ring in his four-car garage to continue passing on his wealth of knowledge, admits there is now no chance of him quitting the sport. "I've done this for too long. I can't walk away now."
He has also trained children with disabilities to help their co-ordination, motor skills and to improve their self-confidence. Barry continues to teach fitness to Belfast School pupils twice weekly.