Chris Kenny - Mr Boxing

This page is about well-known Porirua boxing coach Chris Kenny.

Chris Kenny - Mr Boxing.
Top boxing coach Chris Kenny at his Porirua City gym, with Tai Ratuere (left) and New Zealand's number one welterweight, Leti Leti (right).

“There’s always some new kid on the block and you think “This is it; this will take me to Madison Square Garden in New York”, say Chris Kenny.

“That would be the pinnacle.”

Now, he says, make a note of the name Leti Leti – a 20-year-old Samoan kid showing great promise – he’s the number one welterweight in New Zealand winning the national tital last year after demolishing two opponents in quick succession.

To run through Chris’s coaching career is to list a who’s who of New Zealand boxing.

At the top would be Chris’s son Michael: a 1984 Los Angeles Olympic contender, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, six times New Zealand champ and four times Oceania champ.

Chris has trained eight Oceania champions, New Zealand champions and Commonwealth Games team members, with Danny Hedifen, Greg Weenink, Steve Renwick and Rex Redden (Snr) among the best.

And it was Chris, Bill English (now New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister) looked to when training for the 2002 charity Fight for Life. “He could have been a good fighter. He’s a tough guy.”

From 1993 to 1997 Chris was New Zealand National Coach, taking the team to the Atlanta Olympics, and for eight years he was the New Zealand National Director of Coaching.

He started a coaching for coaches’ programme and developed coaching standards that are widely used today, and he travels the world conducting Olympic Solidarity coaching seminars, most recently in North Korea and Bangladesh. 

Chris is still deeply involved in New Zealand boxing. He is currently president of the Wellington Hutt Valley Boxing Association and has been the International Amateur Boxing Association coach for the Pacific region since 1998. 

He was made a life member of Boxing New Zealand in 2006.

Chris was a pretty handy fighter in his day – a one time New Zealand and Australasian boxing champion in his weight.

After being knocked down in his prime by a serious bout of Hepatitis, which put him in hospital for weeks he began boxing coaching.

Initially, Chris helped out at a wrestling and boxing gym in Titahi Bay, Porirua  and then one day the owner gave him the keys.

At the time, it was an empty hall with nothing but a wrestling mat on the floor. For years he travelled from Tawa in neighbouring Wellington City to open up. Sometimes no one showed.

Today, the small weatherboard gym is a short jog away from his Titahi Bay home, and some nights you can hardly move with 30 and more kids competing for space.

He’d like to expand but doesn’t have the cash.

Inside a boxing ring, draped with boxing gloves, takes up three-quarters of the floor space. Around it, the walls are densely plastered with old boxing posters, fight notices, photos and words of wisdom; like the picture of a kitten seeing itself as a lion in the mirror, which reads: “What matters most is how you see yourself”.

For Chris the mental ability of his boxers is as important as the physical, because it’s a tough road for an aspiring boxer aiming for the top.

Sadly Chris passed away on 2 February 2016.  He was 78.

See Stuff article.