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8 AUCKLAND CITY HARBOUR NEWS, JANUARY 9, 2013
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knew the greats
Pride of place: Dave Cameron, 79, has spent a lifetime collecting boxing memorabilia.
Photo: MARYKE PENMAN
Pen pal: A personal letter addressed to
Dave Cameron from Muhammad Ali
when he lived in Cherry Hill, New
Go to aucklandcityharbour
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1908 bout between American
Jack Johnson and Canadian-born
Go to aucklandcityharbour
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edition to see photos of Dave
Cameron's boxing collection.
By MARYKE PENMAN
Few people can say they were once
pen pals with Muhammad Ali.
Boxing historian Dave Cameron,
79, has the letters to prove it, filed
away amongst a collection of boxing
memorabilia that fills his base-
Mr Cameron recalls being cap-
tivated by the sport almost 70
years ago listening to live ringside
I would hide under the sheets
from my mother and sit up until
1am listening and taking notes.''
Autographed boxing gloves,
strapping tape stained with the
sweat of world champions, photo-
graphs and posters are among Mr
Cameron's most prized possessions.
Some items are worth thousands
of dollars but selling has never once
crossed his mind, he says.
The only item his wife will allow
upstairs is his crowning glory -- a
signed photograph of Muhammad
Ali and his son Paul.
The release of The New Zealand
Boxing Scrapbook, co-written by
sports writer Paul Lewis, on
November 2 realised Mr Cameron's
desire to leave a lasting record of
He was just 12 years old when he
attended his first bout after seeing
a photo of American world heavy-
weight champion Joe Louis in the
It was not long before Mr
Cameron was rubbing shoulders
with boxing big shots as he
recorded the official ring notes''.
He soon made a name for himself
writing for boxing magazines both
here and abroad, including what is
referred to as The Bible of Boxing',
American magazine The Ring.
In 1958 he went to England in
pursuit of boxing's bright lights.
His fondest memories include
seeing professional bouts at Wemb-
ley Stadium and Earls Court in
London, and stealing posters off
the door of world renowned British
boxing promoter Jack Solomons.
I used to send Muhammad Ali
money as well for the return post-
age but he would just sign his
name over George Washington and
send it back.''
Nowadays money and television
govern the sport of boxing, he says,
and dedicated fans have little
chance to interact with their idols.
It's a different world now, it's
gone very corporate.
The average boxing fan who
hasn't got much money can't even
afford to watch a fight on tele-
vision, let alone actually going to
one,'' he says.
What is called the Alphabet
Soup'' of boxing titles has also led
to debate over which boxer really is
the world's best.
There's the WBA, WBC, WBO,
IBA and IBF. Back in the day there
was only one world champ and that
was that,'' Mr Cameron says.
Top fighters spent their days
training in old tin sheds, hitting
punching bags filled with saw dust
and skipping with a piece of rope,
Those guys trained hard and got
very little money. Some didn't get
paid, but relied on bets to tide them
Among them is 1890 world cham-
pion Torpedo' Billy Murphy, the
only New Zealand born world title
He was the first in a long line of
Kiwi boxers with world-class pedi-
gree, Mr Cameron says, including
Tom Heeney, David Tua and Shane
Cameron. I've always rated Shane
like Tom Heeny who fought for a
world title against American Gene
Tunney back in the late 1920s. He's
a hard character.
Shane has hard sparring ses-
sions and he's extremely dedicated.
But he's a good businessman too.''
If there's one thing that bothers
Mr Cameron about the sport, it is
when boxers stay in the game for
Mr Cameron remains at the
heart of New Zealand's boxing fra-
He spends a lot of time ringside
and is always keen to see the young
ones test their mettle.
And despite the lack of space, Mr
Cameron says he will continue
adding to his collection.
I can still find everything, so I
think I'm doing pretty well.''
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