“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” ALBERT PIKE
JACK RENNIE AND ALEX P. VIDAL IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA 1996
By Alex P. Vidal
The man who gave me a break to officiate as judge and referee in world boxing championship fights died on March 14, 2013. It’s the first death anniversary of Jack Rennie, who passed away in a Melbourne nursing home at 82.
I officiated world title fights under Rennie’s supervision when he was supervisor for Asia Pacific Rim and later vice president of the World Boxing Federation (WBF) mostly in the 90s.
Although he was known to a lot of boxing personalities and impresarios in the Philippines, I can say without hesitation that I was one of Rennie’s most favorite Filipino ring officials even if I was not one of the best in my country.
“He may not be one of the best but he is someone who I can trust most,” Rennie told then American WBF president Ron Scalf, who joined Rennie at ringside when I officiated the 12-round world super-bantamweight championship fight between Thailand’s Samson Elite Gym or Dutchboygym versus Mexico’s Genaro “Poblanito” Garcia in Chonburi on February 17, 1996.
I can’t forget Rennie’s words to Scalf until today. He was saying many good things about me to Scalf, other promoters and fellow ring officials. After dinner, he and Scalf summoned me inside their hotel room while we were in Bangkok prior to the Dutchboygym vs. Garcia fisticuffs.
“Alex, can you list down all the names of referees in your country and rank them according to their ability and experience? Please don’t forget to include your name,” sighed Rennie.
I listed 14 names. I placed Carlos “Sonny” Padilla, Jr., father of actress Zsa Zsa, at No. 1 and my friend Bruce McTavish, at No. 2. I listed my name at No. 14. Rennie showed the list to Scalf. They looked at each other without saying any word and asked me to go back to my room.
The following morning while on our way to Chonburi, Scalf gave me a WBF wrist watch. “Alex, not all WBF referees can have this watch,” Scalf whispered. “Take this as a souvenir.” More assignments abroad followed suit.
In 2004 when Rennie retired, newly-installed president Mick Croucher arrived in Manila to hand over my appointment papers as Philippine supervisor. Croucher said I was endorsed by Rennie. Also present in a meeting at the Manila Pavilion Hotel on August 1, 2004 were Chinese promoter Cao Kun, Australia/China advisor Yuickor Yick, and Filipino promoter Gabriel (Bebot) Elorde, Jr.
Croucher, 66, said he was now “100 percent owner” of the WBF which was duly registered at the Consumer Affairs in Victoria, Australia with business number B1722046D pursuant to Business Name Act 1962 on November 7, 2003.
It was Croucher who informed me of Rennie’s death last year. Australian National Boxing Federation (ANBF) president John McDougall, 82, said Rennie “was known throughout the boxing world as a man whose word was his bond.”
McDougall said, “Jack trained the great Lionel Rose to the world bantamweight title and had Lionel defend against high ranked opposition so different to many of the titleholders today. He secured a world title fight for Lionel for the junior lightweight world title and was like a second father to Lionel.”
Rennie trained many other Australian boxers including Paul Ferrari, Jimmy Thunder, Atila Fogas, Graham Brook and many others, according to mcDougall. “He took Graham to the Commonwealth title and Paul to world bantamweight title shot against one of the all-time greats, Carlos Zarate and Paul pushed him close,” he added.
McDougall further said: “Jack in his early days always felt that Boxers deserved better conditions than were on offer out here and was instrumental in forming the ANBF. It was he who paid his own fares and expenses to go to an OBF conference and was successfull in having that body, then the only one in SE Asia admit the ANBF to membership and had the name changed to OPBF to include Australia, NZ and other Pacific Countries.
“The following year he led, as president of the ANBF, a delegation to the OPBF and WBC Conventions to Seoul, South Korea where we cemented our place in the OPBF and with it the WBC. This opened the door for our boxers and also our ring officials. At the same conference we met with the Commonwealth Championships Committee and were able to reach an agreement to make some alterations to our office bearers and we would be admitted to full membership and with the right to vote, which we never previously enjoyed. This required Jack, the President and Len Swettenham, the secretary to step down and pass office to members, who were not trainers, and to the credit of both of these fine men they gladly stepped aside to allow Australia to be recognized and admitted to full membership.”
“Boxing in Australia today and the success of many boxers such as Jeff Fenech, Jeff Harding and many others is the direct legacy of the work initiated by Jack Rennie. Jack’s devotion and work for his sport saw him granted the Order of Australia and Life membership to the ANBF and the Australian Boxing Hall of Fame.”
“He later was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He also received many Victorian Trainer of the year awards. Jack spent many years working as Vice President of the original WBF and at one time had TV bouts for that organisation on air almost every week somewhere in SE Asia. I had the honour of being a close friend of Jack and his family and we traveled overseas together on numerous occasions.
It was an eye opener to see the respect and fondness for him expressed wherever in the world we went. In later years we took our wives with us on some of these trips and for many years we stayed at each other’s homes whenever we visited the other’s State.”
“My own family regarded him as Uncle Jack and were quite upset when I broke the news of his passing to them. Jack was devout Catholic and his generosity to his Church and indeed to many, many people was legendary. Jack’s only vice that I ever knew him to have was a liking for food, which he enjoyed almost to the last.
One had to almost fight him to pick up a restaurant bill such was his generous spirit. Jack’s health declined in recent years and even walking became impossible but when we would visit he was again the ever smiling great guy that we knew.’
“I know that he will be missed by his wife, Nita and his sons and family. So to will he be missed by so many others who have benefited from just knowing him. I regarded Jack as a very close and special mate and I believe that he returned this to me. I shall miss him as will we all . However let us all offer up a prayer for Jack if that is your belief and certainly Boxing in Australia will keep him it’s heart forever. RIP old mate.”