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Life of boxing . . . John Ensor with a shrine in his home. A picture of George Foreman, a picture of his refereeing and the puzzle patiently waiting for someone to claim responsibility. PHOTO: GEORGE CLARK

by George Clark

Long-serving Timaru boxing coach and volunteer John Ensor has hung up his gloves after a 55-year association with his gym.

You could see the stalwart at the Timaru Boxing Association gym in Craigie Ave every week taking boxers through their warm-ups and helping them with their technique.

A life member of the association, Ensor said he had loved every minute serving a rich community of keen boxers.

It was hard to step down and make way for former New Zealand boxing representative Liam Hall (who beat Shane Cameron a decade ago) and Hayden Briggs.

“It was sad to say goodbye but it is not forever. We do not have an abundance of judges or referees in South Canterbury and I do have my fingers crossed I get a call-up to help.”

Ensor turned a boxing dream into reality after leaving Timaru Boys’ High School in 1963.

First introduced to the sport by his physical education teacher, he was hooked and wanted to become involved in Timaru’s boxing community, he said.

“It was much back then as it is today and a way to keep out of trouble,” he said.

“We have come a long way since I was a kid but it has been great to see a continued passion for such a great sport.”

Although he did not consider himself a prize fighter, having lost more than half his dozen amateur welterweight bouts, he was driven by a pure love for the sport, Ensor said.

He started refereeing in 1986 and, apart from a couple of seasons out with injury, had continued his time in the ring.

His passion resulted in him becoming an Amateur International Boxing Association referee and judge, which allowed him to officiate worldwide.

Covid-19 put off a tournament set to be held in Temuka at which he was due to judge.

The novice tournament is held in March each year.

“I just enjoy boxing and being involved in the sport – I like helping out. People often know boxing is around but I find great joy in physically playing a part in it.”

The gym opened in 1965 and was run by Lex Ashton, who now lived in Australia but continued to contact him from time to time, Ensor said.

Ashton was his coach before heading across the Tasman, and was replaced by Peter Leonard and others subsequently.

A puzzle of a young boxer was placed in Ensor’s letterbox when he was 16, but he never found out who put it there or why.

“That person must have known I loved boxing and wanted to motivate me in some way,” he said.

“I keep it untouched in its plastic case, hung on my wall, hoping one day someone will come in here and tell me they put it there.”