My Father the Boxer

My father was a boxer. Although he was not big he had boxing skills that made him a dangerous opponent. He needed it in areas like Taheke where many bar patrons got liquored up and wanted to fight. Bars had to close at 6 pm which may not have helped because as the afternoon wore on patrons increased the pace of their drinking knowing that when the bell rang at 6 o’clock there was to be no more alcohol served. There were certainly no bars or bottle stores there either. 6 o’clock was it.

Fights usually took place out on the grass in front of the hotel. The fights I remember were the ones involving my father. He would take out his top denture, put it on a shelf behind the bar for safe keeping, and then step outside to take part in a fist fight. I never saw him show fear and I never saw him defeated. He had fast hands and knew how to deliver a punch. It’s a complex science, involving balance, speed and timing.

I don’t know how often but he ran a boxing gym for local Maori. The gym was in the building
in the top left of this photo. Sadly, it has now gone.

My brother is on the left of the horse, hanging out with a friend. What the horse is thinking I’m not sure.

The gravel road just behind the horse is not someone’s driveway but the main road north. At this time Taheke was about 5 and a half hours north of Auckland, now it is 3 and a half.

I was always impressed by the gym and was encouraged to learn about boxing. I believe that even the limited experience I had of it taught me something. In boxing there is an emphasis on stoicism, even if you’re on the ropes and someone is thumping your head with their fists and you have a funny metallic taste in your mouth you have to keep thinking or else you’re toast. You have to hang in there waiting for the opportunity to strike back. Even though this sort of stoicism is not talked about much now, increasingly I feel that there’s something to be said for the quality.