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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




The New Zealand Boxing Association was formed at Christchurch on 4 July 1902. In concept it was purely amateur, its avowed object being the promotion and fostering of amateur boxing. Its first act, after having drawn up rules and obtained parliamentary sanction, was to stage the inaugural New Zealand championships at Christchurch. The winners were: J. Fitzsimmons (Timaru), heavyweight; F. Nash (Canterbury), middle; P. W. Olliver (Canterbury), light; and A. L. Jones (Canterbury), feather. The NZBA helped to inaugurate the Australian championships the following year. In these, boxers from the Australian States and New Zealand met almost every year in the main centres of the two countries. The first such event was held in Sydney and, of a four-man New Zealand team, H. M. Taylor and J. M. Griffin, both Greymouth competitors, were successful in winning the heavy and middleweight classes respectively. But the cost of these inter-Dominion tournaments eventually became prohibitive and they were abandoned after 1923, to be temporarily revived in 1933–34 and again in 1960–61.

It was not long, however, before the council appreciated the importance of professional boxing, if for no other reason than that it provided the very necessary funds for the preservation and maintenance of the amateur code. In January 1908, less than three years after the Wellington Boxing Association had promoted the first legalised professional contest in the country between George “Hock” Keys of Sydney and Tim Tracy of Wellington, rules were made to govern the conduct of professional contests. Tim Tracy, incidentally, was a remarkable Irish-born bootmaker who had not fought any kind of contest until past his thirtieth birthday; in 1907 he won a tournament at Christchurch among lightweights to become the first official professional titleholder of the NZBA. Tracy was the outstanding name in New Zealand rings in the days before the First World War. But the twenties were boxing's finest years, here and elsewhere. This indeed was an era of tremendous fights and magnificent fighters, of the million-dollar gate abroad and, at home, the greatest public support the sport was to enjoy for many years. Good boxers abounded. For example, in the year 1928 alone, Tom Heeney became the first New Zealander ever to fight for the world heavyweight title, losing gallantly to Gene Tunney in 11 rounds at New York's huge Yankee Stadium; welterweight Ted Morgan won New Zealand's first Olympic Games gold medal in any sport, at Amsterdam; Charlie Purdy defeated “Bluey” Jones for the Australasian lightweight championship and Jack Carroll for the Australian welterweight title; and Lachie McDonald beat Ted Monson for the Australian middleweight championship. Then there rose the two great “gamecocks”, Tommy Donovan (who in 1930, before an all-time New Zealand record attendance of 18,000, was to score one of his three wins over the American Pete Sarron, subsequently featherweight champion of the world); and Johnnie Leckie, who defeated internationally regarded opponents like Sarron and Claude Wilson (U.S.A.) and former Australian triple champion, Billy Grime, in Australia.

Next Part: Post-war Boxing