'Irreplaceable' - Tributes paid to boxing club legend

Joe Perry, from Dereham, trained, supported and inspired many people over his many years at Dereham Boxing Club.

Joe Perry, from Dereham, trained, supported and inspired many people over his many years at Dereham Boxing Club. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Tributes have been paid to a family man and boxing club stalwart who inspired many others to get into the sport. 

Joe Perry, from Dereham, died on January 29, aged 78.

One of his three children, Julie Goldsmith, said Mr Perry was "an irreplaceable legend, my hero, my first love, my honour to call him my dad".

Shirley, his other daughter, added that "the world is now a poorer place".

Tributes have been paid to Joe Perry, a stalwart of Dereham Boxing Club. 

Tributes have been paid to Joe Perry, a stalwart of Dereham Boxing Club. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mr Perry was born in Wickford, Essex, during the Second World War and had 10 brothers and sisters. He took up boxing and cricket at a young age and during his time at Wickford secondary school he also took part in football and cross-country running.

Mr Perry and his wife Carol married in 1963. Along with their two daughters they also had a son, Terry, and their family grew to include 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. 

After leaving school Mr Perry worked for Carter and Ward builders, working on projects including Hillcrest Avenue in Toftwood. He later set up his own building firm which thrived, and he was especially proud of work he did restoring old churches in his local area. 

Joe Perry of Dereham Boxing Club Jessica, one of his grandchildren. 

Joe Perry of Dereham Boxing Club Jessica, one of his grandchildren. - Credit: Supplied by the family

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Mr Perry had been a dedicated member of Dereham Boxing Club for 46 years, touching hundreds of lives and coaching, guiding and inspiring generations of boxers.

His dad, Henry, taught him to box, following a family tradition that stretched back 100 years and over three generations. 

It is believed Mr Perry fought about 140 bouts in his amateur career, sometimes boxing twice or three times a week.

He joined Dereham Boxing Club in 1975 as a coach with his friend Kenny Harvey. At the time the club was in an old railway carriage behind the Railway Tavern. It later moved to Cherry Tree car park, then to Rash's Green and later to its current location in the car park of Breckland Business Centre.

Joe Perry with grandchild Peter, cutting wood. 

Joe Perry with grandchild Peter, cutting wood. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mr Perry and Carol ran the club as a partnership - along with the help of a few others - until she died several years ago.

In quieter times when students were not training Mr Perry could still usually be found there, getting out his tools and making repairs or upgrades. 

One of his former students, Jacob Seed, said Mr Perry started out as a coach and became a good friend. 

Joe Perry, righty, with Jacob Seed, one of many young boxers he trained at the Dereham Boxing Club.

Joe Perry, righty, with Jacob Seed, one of many young boxers he trained at the Dereham Boxing Club. - Credit: Supplied by the family

He said: "I will miss the smack on the back of the head on every training session and him telling us to push ourselves to get the best out of us. It was an honour to train alongside him."

Another student, Laura Knight, said: "Words cannot express the loss to the world of boxing, his family and friends. There’s not many genuine people around who would do anything for you, but Joe really would. His kindness and personality will be missed hugely."

Joe Perry, right, and a colleague dressed in burgundy, velvet waistcoats for the Smokey Joe’s mobile disco they ran in the...

Joe Perry, right, and a colleague dressed in burgundy, velvet waistcoats for the Smokey Joe’s mobile disco they ran in the 1970s and 80s. - Credit: Supplied by the family

In the 1970s and 80s Mr Perry ran a popular mobile disco called Smokey Joe’s along with family friends Fred and David, and - wearing their matching burgundy, velvet waistcoats - they brought joy to many crowds at village halls and schools.

Mr Perry enjoyed painting landscapes and portraits - some of which still adorn the boxing club's walls. He also loved spending time at his static caravan in Yorkshire, which gave him a chance to take a break from his busy life. 

Mr Perry was a passionate cricketer, first playing with his dad in Wickford and going on to represent clubs until a serious knee injury in his late teens forced him to quit the sport. 

He made a comeback to cricket about 20 years later, playing for clubs in Mattishall, Holkham, Bradenham and Old Buckenham. He captained Old Buckenham's third team for many seasons and also became the club's groundsman. 

Mr Perry went on playing into his mid-70s for Norfolk Seniors and the Black Sheep clubs, and he and Carol travelled games together across the region and made many friendships through the sport.

Further tributes to Mr Perry from former boxing students

Charlie Drewry said: "Joe was a wise man with a good ear, he was an amazing coach, he may be gone but will always be remembered, R.I.P."

Scott Butters said: "Joe knew I was not a boxer, and it would never be my main profession, but he still took me in and gave me the same amount if not more attention and really did help to improve my boxing."

Martin 'Bobo' Wall said: "Joe never got the recognition he deserved for what he put into that club. If it were not for him and Richard Sturman, I would definitely have ended up doing a long stretch."

Shane Whittle said: "Joe was like a father figure to many kids growing up."

Richard Smith said Mr Perry had supported him when he was going through a period of grief. He said: "Joe always new how to approach and guide you no matter what stage you were going through in life. Joe and his lovely wife brought me back to surface of life again through boxing. He was more than coach to me."

Danni Scott said: "Joe was not just a coach, but a friend. He and had such a passion and enthusiasm for the club and its members and always made everyone smile. His memory will live on."

Darren Rowley said: "He always made me welcome at the club and utmost respect being one of the older generations he knew I just wanted to be fit again and encouraged me to do what I could for my age. He will be missed by young and old."

Vicky Hasdell said: "Joe has ignited a passion in boxing for my son Jack and succeeded where every other activity failed. I believe that it was not just boxing as a sport, but Joe as the mentor that really made the difference. He was inspiring."

Stephen Cassidy said: "Joe saw something in me that I did not, and, when I was a young kid, put me with the adults to train with Stevi."

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