LARGER than life for most of his years, well-known New Norfolk sportsman and ex-serviceman Ron Miles has died this week, aged 95. A resident of Corumbene Nursing Home for the last few years, Ron passed away on September 17. He is survived by his wife June and their children Kym and Linda and their families. Ron’s funeral service will be at the Millingtons Funeral Home, 151 Main Rd, Moonah, at 1pm this Wednesday, September 23.
Dubbed Tasmania’s “Mr Boxing” in the 1970s, the name of Ronald Leslie Miles was synonymous with amateur boxing throughout the state for many decades. His sporting career of more than 60 years included his debut as a young competitive boxer in the mid 1930s, more than 40 years as a respected trainer, a referee for both boxing and wrestling, and time as a top promoter expounding the noble art of gloved fisticuffs to all who wished to learn. He also wrote prolifically for the Derwent Valley Gazette and also for The Advocate whilst living in the North-West for a time.
Writing in Volume 1 of The Derwent Valley from Federation to Millennium, Kym Miles noted that his father’s interest was sparked as a youngster attending the New Norfolk State School in the early 1930s. He was fascinated with Alf Henson’s Travelling Boxing Troupe which attended the popular New Norfolk Regatta during the depression years of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Ron had his first venture into boxing in 1935 when, at 15 years of age, he started training at a Hobart gymnasium. Ron fought in several bouts with mixed success at various tournaments before joining the Royal Australian Navy in March 1939. He returned to New Norfolk in 1949 with his wife June and infant son Kym.
He played a major role in the establishment of the Australian Newsprint Mills Boxing Club in 1951. “The club took off and it seemed every boy in New Norfolk wanted to become a boxer. During 34 years of training boxers at New Norfolk, (he) helped to produce many top boxers and his list of champions reads like a Who’s Who of boxing – Johnny Latham, Peter Oldham, Tony Maddox, Barry Lucas, Keith King, Max McCallum, Terry and Ray Briers, Des and Terry Ackerley, Robert Hill, Roger Crosswell, Johnny Jackson, Max Hooper, Johnny Kava, and four-times Australian heavyweight champion Rex Kelly,” Kym Miles wrote.
In 1954 Miles started the popular Derwent Valley Championships to cater for boxers throughout the Derwent Valley. The championships became so popular that they made New Norfolk the Tasmanian mecca for boxing for nearly 30 years. Miles also ran shows as fundraisers for various charities including the Miss Tasmania Quest, while tournaments in the 1950s helped to furnish the New Norfolk War Memorial Hall.
The New Norfolk District Football Club was another big interest. Ron held many positions with the club, including 25 years as team manager, assistant secretary and director, and was a team selector for five different coaches. He was awarded life membership in 1960, and was later awarded life membership of the New Norfolk Old Players and Officials Association.
Ron retired from the ANM workforce in 1980 after 31 years of service and moved to Burnie three years later, where he maintained his keen interest in boxing before returning home to New Norfolk in 1995 to enjoy a quiet life with his wife June.
When Ron Miles’ name appeared in the 1978 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to the sports of boxing, wrestling and Australian football, the then Warden of New Norfolk, Cr Clyde Fitzgerald, remarked: “Ron Miles is a great credit to his district, people like him who give up so much of their time and skill in helping youth are a precious commodity anywhere”. In 2000 Ron received a further honour in the form of the Australian Sports Medal acknowledging his service to Amateur Boxing and Australian Rules Football, as a boxer, boxing trainer, wrestler, referee and promoter.
Rest in peace, Ron Miles. Condolences to his family.