Taping a cross for each fighter
One of the reasons for the success that Australian boxers have enjoyed in recent years, is a man named Johnny Lewis.
He has guided Jeff Fenech, Kostya Tszyu and Jeff Harding to world titles and has trained many others who helped make boxing a popular sport in some parts of the country.
There is no doubt that Lewis has been, for more than 30 years, Australia’s most successful trainer.
He grew up in the tough area of Erskineville, where he came up against hustlers and hard men, even though he has been quoted as saying he never met a bad bloke.
Paul Kent, chief feature writer for the Daily Telegraph, has now written a book in which he tells the story of the trainer who has had done so much to put Australian boxing on the map.
Johnny Lewis, The Biography – The Story of Australia’s King of Boxing covers Lewis’s career right from the time in 1957 when he, as a youngster, embraced boxing in the Newtown gym in Sydney.
A notable feature is Lewis’s training methods emerges on the first page of the book: “He is Johnny Lewis, the fight trainer, and he tapes a small white cross on the back of each fist before he wraps the fighter’s hands before a fight.”
Lewis has done this every time for every fighter he has handled. It is, he says, “just a sign of the cross; one on the fighter’s hand and the other for his opponent. We all want ‘em to go down. But we want ‘em to get up after the count of ten, don’t we, mate?”
This gives one an insight into the man who has spent a lifetime in boxing and has a special relationship with all his boxers, from the young prelim fighters to the world champions.
Possibly the two best fighters trained by Lewis were Fenech, who won three world championship belts, and Kostya Tszyu.
Fenech, who has no doubt why he became a world champion, says: “Johnny wasn’t just a trainer. Johnny didn’t work on the fighter but the man.”
Lewis makes pointed albeit amusing comments about all the governing bodies in boxing when he says: “Most of the belts aren’t worth the bus fare home unless there’s a $5 dollar note pinned to the side.”
He has visited South Africa on a number of occasions. In July 2006, he was in Gairy St Clair’s corner the night the Aussie upset Cassius Baloyi to win the IBF junior lightweight belt.