It started out as a mysterious disappearance but Boxing New Zealand now alleges its most prized possession must have been stolen and is pleading for those responsible to return the 95-year-old Jameson Belt.
The one-of-a-kind hand-crafted belt, the most sought-after prize in New Zealand boxing, was packed in a sealed box and collected by freight company Toll Global Express from a Dunedin address back in April.
Six boxes were scanned as being picked up but only five were recorded arriving at Toll’s Dunedin base. The missing box contains the Jameson Belt and the 94-year-old Ted Morgan Cup – amongst other trophies – and has vanished into thin air.
So how does a box that stands 90cm tall and 65cm square just go missing?
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Boxing NZ spent several months asking the same question of Pack & Send, which was to deliver the boxes to Whanganui, and Toll which was subcontracted to pick up them up from Dunedin.
Boxing NZ chairman Keith Walker believes the box has been stolen, but by who or why or even when exactly, remain the unanswered questions.
Walker said for the public to appreciate the magnitude of the loss, they need to understand the Jameson Belt – awarded to the most scientific boxer at the nationals each year – is amateur boxing’s equivalent to rugby’s Ranfurly Shield or sailing America’s Cup.
In a bid to get the irreplaceable “jewels of our sport” back, Boxing NZ offered a $1000 reward for information that leads to the Jameson Belt being returned but so far, no meaningful information has been received.
“I believe that there is more than one person who knows where the trophies are,” Walker said. “All our evidence suggests that they are in Dunedin (or have been shipped out by whoever unlawfully took them)”.
Boxing NZ feels Toll has “washed their hands of the matter and taken no responsibility for the job they were paid to do” but on Monday, Toll Global Express rejected that claim and revealed details of an ongoing investigation to Stuff.
A Toll Global Express spokesperson said they are gutted by the situation and would not give up until the box and its contents have been located.
Toll chief executive Grant Lemin was across the saga and its internal investigator, Peter Kereama, was around halfway through his own investigation into the matter.
“It’s got everyone’s attention,” the Toll spokesperson said. “I imagine that whatever has happened will be uncovered by him [Kereama].”
Walker is beside himself that the Jameson Belt has gone missing under his watch.
The Jameson Belt is said to be of high monetary value but holds sentimental and historic worth that means far more than any amount of money.
“Of what value has it got to anybody else?
“Nobody could hang it on the wall in the lounge and say this is a trophy I won,” Walker said.
Donated by Dublin distillery John Jameson & Sons way back in 1927, the Jameson Belt is the one award every amateur boxer wants to win.
Boxing NZ’s nationals championships – which begin at Jubilee Stadium in Whanganui on Tuesday – will be contested under a dark cloud of sadness and anger, as were the delayed 2021 nationals held in April (due to Covid-19).
Back in April, Commonwealth Games representative Oynx Lye won the most scientific boxer award but was robbed of his chance to hold the missing belt.
Two-time Commonwealth Games gold medal winner and Olympic bronze medallist David Nyika was one of the many New Zealand boxing greats to be awarded the Jameson Belt.
The Ted Morgan Cup was first presented in 1928 to honour New Zealand’s first Olympic champion who claimed the gold medal in the welterweight division, at the 1928 Olympics.
Multiple national amateur and professional champion Bowyn Morgan, who won the Ted Morgan Cup on three consecutive occasions and also held the Jameson Belt in 2012, said the history and prestige of the awards are massive in New Zealand.
“For the people that have them please return them as there is so much history, blood sweat and tears that go into winning those awards for every name engraved onto them.
“It’s devastating for the boxers who are losing out not to be handed those awards after winning them,” Morgan said.
A New Zealand police spokesperson did not answer specific questions about the investigation.
“I can confirm Police received a report of a couriered box not being delivered as expected in April of this year and inquiries were made, however the box has not been able to be located at this time.”
Boxing NZ, which has lodged a claim with its own insurance company, would replicate the belt but admitted it won’t be the same.
“The history of it has to continue,” Walker said
There was no guarantee the insurance would cover even close to the full replacement cost, he said.