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The Nelson Photo News



Jeff Rackley Talented All-Rounder Seeks Boxing Gold

Nineteen-year-old Jeff Rackley is one of the most talented sportsmen Nelson has produced. He appears to excel in any sport he undertakes and has represented Nelson at several. But boxing is the one he has devoted most time to, and the one at which he has achieved prominence and most success. Indeed "boxing" and "Rackley" are synonymous, not only in Nelson, but at national level.

As a junior, Jeff Rackley was successful, but he considers he was "not much as a junior." One could take him at his word and discount the two national titles he won in 1966 and 1968. And, he has a point when his younger days are compared with his successes in the senior ranks, which he entered in 1969.

At the New Zealand championships in 1969, Jeff Rackley was outstandingly successful. Not only did he claim the featherweight title, but he also had his name engraved on the Jameson Belt for the most scientific boxer, and he was also the youngest boxer at the tournament to win a title.

The mastermind behind Rackley's continued success is his trainer-father Les. "Dad has always planned ahead with my boxing career. He planned a year ahead when I would win my first senior title, and the Jameson Belt was a bonus," said Jeff. This might sound like a father forcing a son into a sport. But, speaking to Jeff, one quickly realises he would not be easily pushed around, although it must be comforting to have a driving force like Les Rackley in your corner.

Jeff, a medical student at Otago University, has devoted much time and made many sacrifices on his way to the top of boxing. Is it worth it? What does he like about boxing? What are the attractions of punching and being punched?

"I like the physical contact. I enjoy any sport which involves physical contact, like rugby. Games like badminton don't really grab me." As well as rugby, in which he was a Nelson junior representative, and captain of Nelson College First XV for two years, Jeff has represented Nelson in senior cricket (he's a right-handed batsman and bowler), on and off for the last two years, and he was selected in the national schoolboy volleyball team after competing in the championships as captain of the Nelson team.

The year after he claimed his first senior boxing title, Rackley added the lightweight championship, but did not retain the Jameson Belt. However, at the last national championships, he gained a third crown, the welter-weight, and regained the Jameson Belt.

With five national championships to his credit, a New Zealand blazer was the next target. And, with a place in the successful New Zealand team to the Oceania Games, Rackley achieved that aim. His performance at the Games, where he won a gold medal with a points win over American Samoan Kere Kere, and at Fiji on the way home, where he beat Fijian light middleweight champion Manuel Bese, on points, indicated he was ready for bigger things.

At Munich he's going to face those bigger things. The boxer from Nelson will be matched against welter-weight fighters who are almost professionals. In the tough world of European boxing, amateurs can barely lay claim to the name. International bouts are common and Jeff Rackley is going to meet some seasoned fighters. He has demonstrated his versatility by matching fighters ranging from head-hunting wild swingers to more stylish, straight hitters; he has a record of 86 fights for 77 wins; and he's game.

Of the future, Jeff is a little uncertain. The Commonwealth Games are not far away and he'll, more than likely, have a crack at selection for them.

After Munich, the few probing offers by professional entrepreneurs will probably intensify. But the cold world of professionalism holds few attractions and, in New Zealand, there is just not enough money in it.

So, amateur boxing in this country will probably be lucky enough to have Jeff Rackley around for a little longer, at least.


Jeff Rackley training. Out of the picture, and on the receiving end of the slamming fists, is a speed ball


Les Rackley has a stable of champions, and three of them are his sons. Jeff needs no introduction; Les is the intermediate welter champion, and Dean is the Junior light welterweight champion