The Star: May 26, 2016

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8 Thursday May 26 2016

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‘I set a path for amateurs’ – Barry

Heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker will fight

in Christchurch in July – the last step in a

bid at a world title shot in England. Patrick

McKendry looks at what makes his trainer

Kevin Barry tick

NEW ZEALAND businessman

Bob Jones first connected Kevin

Barry with Joseph Parker, but the

union was not straightforward.

Jones (left), a

boxing aficionado

and millionaire,

wanted Barry to

train Parker in

Las Vegas before

the 2012 Olympics

in London.

For one reason or another it

didn’t happen. Parker then lost

the final qualifier and never

made it to the United Kingdom.

Next it was Dean Lonergan

with an offer. “Kev”, the promoter

said to his friend on the phone

in Las Vegas, “I want to sign this

guy as a professional and I want

you and only you to train him”.

“Okay”, came the uncertain

reply.

“I thought, ‘I had never met

him, I had never met his family’,”

Barry told the New Zealand

Herald this week.

“I’ve got to sell this whole

concept to my wife – Dean wants

to send this guy over to me to

live with us. Dean said: ‘well if

it doesn’t work out then I’ll put

him up in a hotel’.

“I said: ‘look, you bring a

young Samoan boy from South

Auckland and you put him in a

hotel, it’s never going to work,

mate’. I said: ‘this whole thing,

if it works, I’m going to have to

invite him into my family’. Dean

said: ‘he’s a lovely guy’.”

That conversation happened

more than three years ago.

It took seven months for the

contract to go through. Now

56-year-old Barry and his

24-year-old fighter are standing

on the brink of a world title shot

and the bond between them

looks likely to endure for a long

time.

The victory over Carlos Takam

at Manukau’s Vodafone Events

Centre at the weekend was to

have made Parker the mandatory

challenger for the IBF world

heavyweight title.

But he now has to hurdle

Australian Solomon Haumono

in Christchurch in July.

Barry has been alongside

Parker for the past 14 of his 18

professional fights.

Another thing worming into

Barry’s mind as he considered

Lonergan’s offer was the fallout

from the David Tua affair.

Barry, who was very close to

Tua and trained him for 12 years,

had a massive falling out with

him over money following the

heavyweight’s world title defeat

to Lennox Lewis in 2000.

A legal battle ensued and the

emotional scars remain for both

men.

However, after watching

Parker train for the first time,

and meeting his parents Sala

and Dempsey, Barry’s fears were

eased. Later they would vanish.

“He was very much an amateur,

not using his whole body,

no leverage from his legs,” Barry

said. “I waited for about 15 minutes

and gave him a couple of

instructions.

“What I showed him he

adopted straight away. That was

massive. I thought: ‘this kid is

coachable. He wants to learn’.

“I met with his Mum and Dad

and they said people had come up

to them and said: ‘oh you shouldn’t

put Joseph with Kevin Barry, he’s

the wrong guy, look what happened

with Tua after 12 years’.

The family said: ‘we want

what’s best for our son. We want

him with you’.

“I made a pledge to them at

the time that I would become

his father figure and would treat

him like I would treat my own

children.”

The trip to Samoa earlier this

year for Parker’s fight against

American Jason Bergman,

helped Barry shut the door on

the Tua controversy.

“I had a lot of love in Samoa;

a lot of respect from the Prime

Minister and elders, and a lot of

thanks for what I’m doing with

Joseph.

They knew what I did with

David for 12 years, with Masalino

Masoe [a middleweight world

title], a lot of other Samoan

fighters.

MATES: Kevin Barry and

Joseph Parker. Left: Parker in

training.

There will always be a scar

there,” Barry said of the Tua

fallout. “When I agreed to come

back here and start training Joe,

it was very important for me that

I put that behind me.

“In a sense I had years prior

. . . but you spend 12 years with

a person and it leaves emotional

scars. The fact I was now spending

more time in New Zealand

that it was even more important

for me to completely close that

chapter. And I have.

“That name very rarely even

comes up now. No one even really

cares, it’s a long time ago now.”

Barry began boxing at eight

years old under the care of his father,

Kevin senior, who would go

on to become a Commonwealth

and Olympic Games coach and

an amateur boxing identity in

Christchurch.

His late father remains a huge

influence. Barry junior had his

first fight at nine years old and

once fought three times in one

night as a 10-year-old at a Canterbury

under-16 championship.

He won the first two and lost the

final to a 15-year-old.

He thrives on boxing and

everything to do with it. During

our interview, his phone

rings several times – promoter

Lonergan has been putting him

through media paces like never

before, he said – but he picks

up his train of thought without

hesitation.

As a light heavyweight, Barry

won all sorts of medals and

awards, and became synonymous

with Evander Holyfield at

the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles

after the American was disqualified

for repeatedly hitting

after the break, a controversial

decision which helped Barry to a

silver medal.

“I set a path for the amateurs

coming behind me and I was

very proud of that,” he said. “I

boxed for 16 years and it gave me

a great start – it built the character

and person I am today.

The Holyfield fight at the

Olympics . . . I was bitter at the

time because I was a proud guy

and ended up winning my fourth

fight there by disqualification. I

was coming second in the fight.

But I had never been off my feet in

16 years and he was never going to

get me off my feet even though he

knocked everyone else out. So he

hit me with a cheap shot.

“As well as launching Holyfield’s

professional career, it

opened a lot of doors for me in

America back in the late 80s

when I started travelling there.”

During our interview, Barry

receives a call from an old mate

in Christchurch, plus Lonergan,

and the latter he finishes with

a stream of good-natured foulmouthed

insults. Parker visits

briefly, and leaves again after

being told he has a BBC phone

interview before training.

Once he leaves, Barry said:

“Joe is a gifted athlete, a very

talented young man who has so

much going for him. He’s special.

And I feel there is a piece of me

in Joe. It’s the coaching that

keeps me awake at night, thinking,

‘I’ve got to try this particular

combination’. I get up and write

things down. The coaching occupies

all my spare time.

Can you assist to deliver this valuable service,

drivers needed all parts of the city!

• Weekly, fortnightly or to suit

• For delivery of midday meal

• Each round 1 – 1½ hours

• Weekdays only

• Training given

• Petrol allowance provided

• Regular / relief rounds

available

9195284AA 8598351AA

Contact Pat phone 339 3759

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