Nothing can knock Bill down
At two years shy of a century, Bill Ivory is still putting on his gloves.
Up until COVID hit, the South West boxing stalwart was still training aspiring boxers in his garage gym.
The Victorian boy followed in the footsteps of his brother Harry who boxed professionally.
I wanted to go to the same gym as my brother, so I started working in a butcher shop — delivering meat on my pushbike — so that I could afford the two shillings and sixpence it cost to train each week.
“Earning a few bob was considered more important than going to school.
“I was dux of the class, but money was short and I was one of six kids so I had to drop out of Grade 8 and earn money.”
The cosy gym was tucked away in the top story of a bakery. Bill recalled there being flour everywhere.
As a boy, Bill was not interested in fighting, he just like training and learning how to box. He liked a fight, but never liked to fight.
“I did not want to box competitively, I used to just carry the water bottles for the boxers so that I could sneak into the arena for free.”
It was at one of the big-stage fights that Harry dobbed Bill in for a fight.
“My legs were like jelly,” Bill said.
“But, I ended up winning and that meant I won two pounds.
It was something I could earn money from, so I was doing that up until I was 19, then I got called up to the army.
Bill said he had high hopes for his time in the military.
“We all believed we would get to go overseas on this big adventure,” he said.
“It was nothing like that.
“Some blokes went and never returned.”
Due to his experienced boxing background, Bill was shipped to WA where he was put in charge of training young Australian recruits in the army.
“They were not sure how long the war was going to last, so they wanted more recruits.”
He was stationed in Harvey at the Internment Camp on South Western Highway.
The camp was created so that Italian and German immigrants could be kept “under observation” while Australia was at war with Mussolini and Hitler.
“They never told us why the European internees were there, but we gathered pretty quickly that it was because there were Government concerns about espionage.”
While the camp was built to observe immigrants, Bill said it was also used for training Australian draftees.
“There was never any animosity between the military and the townsfolk,” he said.
“I started teaching boxing at the camp to the Australian draftees and the town would come and watch.
“We built a boxing ring around a raised platform and added seating.”
Bill said there were never any losers because competitors were given prizes from the canteen.
When the war ended and Japan surrendered, Bill took to refereeing and coaching boxing with Police boys, known as PCYC.
He now has a life membership after being involved in the organisation for more than 60 years.
“When I retired, they made me promise that I’d still train a few boxers in my garage.”
Bill’s backyard boxing den has images of his boxing victories over the decades, including the time he met world champion Danny Green.
Although his boxing gloves are starting to get a little dusty, the 98-year-old will forever be a respected ambassador for the sport.
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