Jeff Rackley rose to his feet and started his speech with a lump in his throat and a tear in his eyes. “Well, this is a shock,” he started. “I’m humbled, I really am.”
Jeff had just been appointed patron of the Victory Boxing Charitable Trust in a surprise ceremony at the trust’s Vanguard St gym last Friday.
Victory Boxing chair John Armstrong says Jeff was the perfect person to be patron for the group. A man with “mana”, who volunteers his time in the gym and has an unrivalled pedigree in the sport.
Since leaving his job as a real estate agent in March, Jeff is in the gym five times a week and even travels to tournaments with some of the younger fighters.
Coordinator Paul Hampton says having that experience is invaluable.
“Jeff is a guy who people in the gym look up to. He’s happy to offer a bit of advice and generally help out. I heard him talk to some Waimea Intermediate students a couple of weeks ago, talking about respecting others and how the gym is an important space. He said having a place like this would have been fantastic when he was growing up.”
Jeff started boxing training while still at primary school and was famously coached by his father Les, who help Jeff and his three brothers to multiple national boxing titles.
Jeff says he enjoyed boxing as a youngster and went on to fight in 100-odd amateur fights and seven professional bouts.
He won the Jameson Belt three times for being the most “scientific” boxer at the national championships and fought in the last 15 round professional fight in the country, a fight he won.
At 22 he represented New Zealand at the Munich Olympic games as a boxer, before he came back to teach physical education at Nayland College.
Two years in the UK followed where he played rugby and cricket, two sports he represented Nelson at, including a famous game against Australia at Trafalgar Park in 1972. As a rugby player Jeff was a flanker-cum-hooker and in cricket, an opening batsman.
When he came back to Nelson after his time in the UK, Jeff worked at the now-defunct Nelson Fisherman’s Co-op before buying the Black Cat dairy with his wife Karen. They owned that for two years before they reached an agreement to buy the Prince Albert Hotel.
They sold the dairy to make the deal happen, only for it to fall through.
That started Jeff in the real estate game where he started at Harcourts before founding Haven Reality with Darryl Marshall and Jane Paynter in the early 1990s.
Outside of work, Jeff is a past president of Nelson Bays Rugby Union, is currently president of Nelson Cricket Association, earned a Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community in 2008, was a Nelson City councillor from 2010 to 2013 and ran the popular Haven Sports Trust dinner which raised money for young athletes in Nelson for decades.
It’s quite a life the father and grandfather has had, and part of the reason Paul says Victory Boxing were keen to make him their patron.
“He’s a guy from here, he went to Victory School, he was a fantastic boxer and he has done a lot outside of sport, too. These all fit perfectly with what we do here,” says John. “We’re a community group first and foremost and respecting others and trying to help people be the best they can be.”
Jeff says the certificate will take pride of place in a new apartment he and Karen are building.
“I arrive here every day and I’ve got a smile on my face. What Paul and his team has done here is just magic.”