By Duncan Johnstone
It's taken a long time but Kevin Barry feels like he is back where he belongs - in the corner of a rising Kiwi boxing heavyweight.
The man who took David Tua to within a whisker of a world title before their own worlds fell apart under the weight of a long and acrimonious court battle has now got Joseph Parker under his wing.
Barry took some convincing but a year into the job he couldn't be happier.
It's been something of a healing process for Barry. But it has also invigorated him, providing a competitive challenge that had grown stale in a cosy environment engineered in Las Vegas.
Barry has been in the world's boxing capital for 10 years, a sanctuary away from the damages done by the public disintegration of his relationship with Tua.
"When things blew up with Tua and we went from a 12-year relationship where we were as close a brothers to being estranged, I sort of felt very unfairly treated and didn't want to be there (in New Zealand) any longer," Barry said, opening up for a rare moment on the ugly end to his time with Tua and the toll it took on himself and those around him.
"When you go through some amazing highs and then they turn into incredible lows, it's pretty hard … it's pretty hard to put your family through it."
Tua undoubtedly felt the same way as both held their ground over accusations of missing finances from the Kiwi-Samoan's long and successful career.
Barry feels vindicated by the court rulings. But it's clearly not a sweet victory.
"As time went on, we went through the judicial system in New Zealand and spent millions of dollars on lawyers and accountants to prove that we both wasted a lot of time and a chunk of our own lives determining something that I knew from the get-go … that there was no money missing.
"It was unfortunate. One of the things that disappointed me was that I thought after the sacrifices I had made in the 12 years that I had spent with Tua, I expected a little bit more loyalty than what I got (from David).
"When this all blew up it wasn't me that turned my back on him, it was him that turned his back on me over the word of people who had no idea what was going on.
"It's really not a subject that I talk a lot about because, if you spend your time dwelling on the past, you can't move forward in the future.
"At times when I do recollect, I'm very disappointed … we had a tremendous association that certain individuals destroyed. It was senseless."
Barry always anticipated living overseas and earning a living from a sport that he has been involved in since he was eight and earned him an Olympic silver medal.
He thought that destination would be London. But ultimately his own connections in Vegas proved too strong. Plus his wife Tania and their three children instantly liked the place and have thrived there.
His twin sons Taylor and Mitch, now 19, love gridiron and are damn good at it with Mitch being an All-American. His daughter Jordy is the family's academic with grades placing her in the top two per cent in the States.
"All I can I tell her is I'm a professor of pugilism," Barry laughs, realising it's only a half joke. Boxing really is his world. It's all he knows and he probably knows it better than any Kiwi.
It's why Parker's handlers, initially Sir Bob Jones and then Duco Events, both approached him to guide a fighter of rare potential.
Barry had proved his worth in Vegas, getting over the Tua fallout to guide Kazakhstan light-heavyweight Beibut Shumenov to a world title in 2009 and having a handful of top 10 fighters in his stable.
He was also operating a gym that tended to the corporate market. But health issues eventually caught up with him. Just as he recovered from two hand operations and a shoulder reconstruction, his right ankle blew out.
Barry took time out and eventually scaled his work back to just the very high end of his corporate clients.
"It was a nice job, risk-free, and I wasn't getting knocked around. But there was something missing."
That missing element turned out to be Parker. Sir Bob had piqued his interest in the young amateur by saying he wanted to back his bid to make the Olympics and wanted Barry to train him.
When Parker's 2012 Olympics selection quest fell agonisingly short and he instantly turned professional signing with Duco, it was Barry's old mate Dean Lonergan who phoned next to try to persuade him to take charge of Parker.
By then Barry had done some homework on Parker and was intrigued enough to listen. He looked at the logistics, and believed they could be achieved while still living in Vegas. He still had to convince his wife though because just as he had done with Tua, the Parker partnership involved a 24-7 arrangement with the fighter living as part of the Barry family.
"Tania said to me right: ‘Really? You really want to do that again?' I told her I needed that challenge in my life. Life was too easy with the corporate guys. She said 'if you really want to do it, you do it. I'll be there but I don't want to be picking the pieces up again, I don't want to see you heart-broken'.
"I told her that I'd hold myself back a bit this time and she just laughed: ‘If you are in, you're in 100 per cent'. And she's right about that."
Barry demanded the same of Parker when he eventually met him about a year ago in Auckland.
"I said to Joseph: ‘You have a real big job to do. You and I have to become great friends really, really quickly. You have to trust in everything I tell you. If you do that I will give you 100 per cent of myself'.
"That's where it started and every single day since then I have been giving Joseph life lessons on boxing.
"I had to win over his parents and earn their trust, too. In the background there are people who have said, ‘look what he did to David Tua'.
"Yet Joseph is so protective of me. He is such a gentle man outside of the ring. A couple of times I have seen him angry when someone has said something disrespectful to me."
There's more than a touch of irony in the second coming of Kevin Barry and New Zealand boxing. There are plans by Parker's management to build a stable of boxers under Barry's tutelage.
"This is what I had in place to do with Tua 10 years ago. This is what he and I talked about in detail. We had set up a base to bring all the talent from New Zealand and Australia through us to America.
"Then it just disappeared. Overnight.
"It wasn't about riding the Tua thing out till we couldn't flog it any more, it was about building a team for life."
Now Barry, a proud New Zealander despite his American trappings, has been given a new lease of life in the form of his prodigy Parker.
"I think this kid is going to be special, I really do."
Tags: Joseph Parker