The Queen’s Birthday award to former boxer Billy Graham, making him a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognised his decades long work in developing and growing the potential of young men and women in the community.

In 2006, Billy established the Naenae Youth Charitable Trust which funds the activities of the Naenae Boxing Academy, in utilising the skills and discipline of the sport to change young people's lives.

The aims and goals of the Naenae Boxing Academy are to teach youth life-skills through participation and the discipline of boxing and physical fitness.

Such has been the success of Billy Graham’s academy, that it has become the template for similar programs throughout the country, including the Tauranga Boxing Academy run by the BOP Youth Development Trust.

On the Naenae Boxing Academy website, Billy Graham says the reason he established the Hutt Valley academy is “to make a differences in young people's lives and give them a place of refuge".

Billy's boxing coach Dick Dunn made him feel secure through one-on-one time and the old-time virtues of abstinence from smoking, alcohol and bad language.

The seeds of the Naenae Boxing Academy began nearly a century ago, when Dick Dunn walked into the Tim Tracy boxing gym in the heart of Wellington.

Tracy, who emigrated with his parents to New Zealand from County Clare in Ireland as a two-year-old in 1876, engaged in the countries first official professional title fight in 1905.

After retirement from combat in the ring, Tim Tracy established a boxing gym in Willis Street in the Capital City, where his students included Ted Morgan.

Morgan would go on to win New Zealand's first Olympic Gold Medal at the 1928 Olympic Games.

Conditions in the Tim Tracy boxing gym were extremely spartan by today's standards, with just a rope across the front of three walls of the room, which offered little escape.

After a solitary lesson in self-defence, the aspiring boxers were put in the ring and if showing some potential, were invited back the following week.

Dick Dunn went on to become a legend in the training ranks in New Zealand, with a myriad of amateur champions that included 1958 Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist Wally Coe and Billy Graham.

Billy Graham was out of the top draw of amateur boxers produced in this country.

With Dick Dunn in his corner, he won four Light Welterweight National titles which included the prestigious Jameson Belt awarded to the most scientific boxer. 1967 was a vintage year for the Hutt Valley pugilist, with his second national title accompanied by the Jameson Belt with the icing on the cake being an Australasian crown.

Billy Graham has called upon the memories of the massive contributions to boxing in the country of Ted Tracy and Dick Dunn, to make a difference to youth of New Zealand today.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian