Billy ‘The Kid’ is blessed to be in Noah’s corner
As boxer Billy ‘The Kid’ Dib trains for his next tilt at a world title, he is also giving a young man from a Wesley Mission program a crack at life.
At Jeff Fenech’s private gym in Sydney’s inner-west, Noah Heine, shapes up to ‘The Kid’ as powerfully as he has to his own personal challenges – on the front foot.
“Keep in tight, use your hips to pivot…that’s where you will get your power,” Fenech instructs the 15 year old as he spars with his prize pupil and IBF World Bantam Weight Champion.
The blows are fast and furious as the sweat flies and the fluids spray like a burst garden hose.
For most boxing followers this session is a dream come true but for Noah it is an answer to a pugilist’s prayer.
Despite having a tough time at home and school, boxing is a pursuit he is clearly focused upon. He is aiming to have his first amateur bout this month just weeks before Dib will be battling Tevin Farmer for the IBF Super Featherweight title in Sydney in August.
In Noah’s corner that day will be Wesley Mission’s Caolan Durkin, an early intervention youth case worker based at Penrith in Sydney’s west.
Caolan has seen the remarkable turnaround in Noah’s life since participating in the program while walking with him every step of the way.
Noah is now managing his mental health issues, his school attendance and grades are up and he has set some realistic and satisfying goals for himself.
“Noah has survived some extreme traumas that many others would not,” Caolan said. ”His past and present living situation has impacted on his mental health. The fact that Noah is alive and hasn’t gone down a self-destructive path is a great outcome.
“He’s very mature, never misses appointments, he’s very driven and goes to a gym in Penrith six days a week. He is aiming to compete at the Commonwealth Games.”
Noah had always admired Billy Dib. His chance to meet him came as a result of a presentation Caolan gave to a group of workers at Cover More Travel Insurance in Sydney. It was here that he outlined the work he did among vulnerable young people and told the group about a remarkable young man in his care – Noah – whose love of boxing was unmatched.
Unknown to Caolan a friend of Billy Dib was sitting in the audience, who later contacted Dib and told him about Noah. Soon Caolan had the boxer’s phone number and Noah had his favourite fighter in his sights.
Caolan’s presentation had its sequel at Fenech’s gym on a wet and cold winter’s afternoon. Noah admitted that he was “shocked and stoked” to receive an invitation to spar with boxing royalty, who also had some words of advice.
“A friend of mine contacted me and he told me there was a kid who was a boxing fan and who needed a bit of a pick-up,” Dib said, who took up the gloves after being bullied at school. “I’m always here to help kids. I feel blessed that God has given me a talent and to use it to the fullest and to give back to the community.”
Dib said although he was bullied, he had a strong and caring family to fall back on. “Others don’t,” he said.
“When I get a call to help somebody I’m happy to do that. I feel like that if wasn’t for God blessing me with this ability I would not have been here anyway. I have fame and recognition but I need and want to give back.
“Boxing is one of the sports that have lifted so many people out of poverty. It gives you motivation. It teaches you discipline – eat right, train right, got to bed at the right time. If you want to be the best in the sport, you have to be so disciplined. It also teaches you respect. It saved me from being a street kid and out there causing trouble.”
Billy ‘The Kid’ Dib has a message for young people drawn from his coach Jeff Fenech: “Persevere: tough times don’t last, tough people do.”
Noah is no better example of this resilience. He has been supported by Wesley Mission from age 11 and appreciates the care and guidance given by his previous case workers in programs like Wesley Reconnect who have been with him through life’s toughest bouts.
Apart from some timely boxing tips from Dib and Fenech, Noah also took away some advice on life from the world championship pair.
Caolan believes the meeting and imparted wisdom have the potential to be more “life changing” than glove speed.
“Don’t be peer pressured into things and I am what I make it,” Noah said. “It’s up to me where I want to go in life. It’s not up to my mum, or my dad or my friends if I want something I have to push for it.”
—By Graeme Cole