hit them again

A boxing tragic's look at the world of boxing. No hidden agendas, no cash for comment, just my opinion, for what it's worth, of the greatest sport there is. Oh yeah, and i can't fight for shit!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

battling the demons with Lester Ellis

Lester Ellis, former world junior lightweight boxing champion.

Forget the stories of Lester’s suicide attempts, of the bankruptcy, the struggles, sure Les is having a tough time retiring from a sport he lived 24/7 for over twenty years, sure he is fighting an ongoing battle with booze but Lester Ellis isn’t some punch drunk pug laying in a gutter somewhere, far from it. On the day I meet Lester he greets me at the front door of a two story mini mansion where the plasterers are doing repairs on the ground floor ceiling caused by flooding from the upstairs spa! In the late eighties Lester investments went bad, “I went to all the smarties, the solicitors, the accountants and they said put your money in real estate you can’t go wrong. I did and I went broke, we lost virtually everything.” But he did what he does best, he fought on, saving the money from his fights, his comebacks, four or five of them and he’s built this house from the ground up. We adjourn to the Trophy Room where the walls are covered in photos of Ellis in his prime, boxing posters, prints, title belts and trophies. Despite the financial struggles in the eighties and nineties Lester never let go of these mementoes. Though later on when I’m admiring his first belt – the IBF World junior lightweight championship belt – he jokingly says “You wanna buy it?” He has plans to give his kids some money for their futures, maybe some land and if the right price was offered he might just part with that belt. It was an enjoyable chat. I even met his dad as we had coffee after but Lester could never sit still. He was in and out of the house checking on his pigeons, offering to help the plasterers, talking and wandering... still struggling with his demons, he needs to keep busy. But here's a little bit of what Les had to say about things

What I know about…


You do it for the money. It’s not a sport mate. Two people go in there and they kill each other, you’re trying to hurt someone. It’s not like football you know, when you get tired you can handball it to your mate and have a rest. In boxing if you want a rest, someone’s gonna hurt you.

Winning a world title

Hwan Kil Yuh, the IBF champion picked me as an easy fight…I was a nineteen year old kid, undefeated but with limited experience. They picked the wrong guy.

You can teach some one to play cricket or footy or different sports but its hard to teach someone who’s nineteen how to handle success. It was a bit of a rollercoaster.

Losing a world title

I got $100,000 for fighting Barry (Michaels) that was a house, a coupla houses.
When I was twelve he was twenty three and the Australian champion and I remember saying to my dad, “One day could I be as good as him?” Eight years later and he’s fighting me for my world title. We actually thought we could beat him but I fought his fight. I stood there and slugged it out. He was a bit stronger than me. Though I could punch harder, he was physically stronger.

Jeff Fenech

In 1992 or 1993 Bill Mordey offered him a million dollars to take me on but Jeff said, I’m not gonna butter Lester’s bread.” I said, “Well, the loser gets nothing the winner gets a million dollars.” You know, to prove I was genuine.

I boxed with him on a couple of occasions. (Sparring) He’s physically very strong but he can’t punch. Because of his hands he wasn’t a big puncher. I respect him but that was one fight that definitely should have happened.


I was half pie illiterate. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write but I wanted to read the boxing magazines, the books on how the greats dieted, how they got motivated so I taught myself. A year or two fair dinkum is better than ten years bullshitting around half hearted.


After my fight with Hwan Kil Yuh he said (through his interpreter) “Listen Les I want to get a woman, an Australian woman with big boobs.” I said to my brother “Where do I take him?” and he said, “There’s a place in St. Kilda, Top Of The Town.” So, we took him there and there’s these doors you knock on and the first door unlocks he starts screaming out “Baaaagababaga!” like beautiful or something in his language, so we fixed it up, he went in there and I paid for a long time which is an hour and he was out in thirty seconds!

Puerto Rico

Mate they put us in cages fair dinkum. Fed us fruit and water and they had guns. We made a deal to fight in a place called San Juan for a certain amount of money, I think it was fifty thousand U.S. but as the fight got closer he (the promoter) said tickets aren’t going so well and the money went right down to nothing. We had to break out. My brother Keith just went bang, knocked out some guard. It was like something out of The Magnificent Seven you know, all dressed in white with the black gun belt going across, the guns… it was crazy. We got to the embassy and just got the hell out of there.

Anthony Mundine

I hadn’t fought for six years but I looked at him, I seen that he hadn’t been hit hard before… thought I might have a chance. But he was so big and every time I punched him BOOM you know… too big for me. If I was the same age, same weight division I definitely would have been a top chance but it (the fight) never should have happened.

Life after boxing

I love the boxing, I miss it terribly but enough is enough. I fought for twenty four years, it’s come to an end and I can honestly say I had a good career. It was hard not being super fit anymore but I could eat what I liked, no dieting anymore or running. I’ve got a gym at home and I teach some self defense, weight loss, general fitness, I do that part time. I don’t want to train people to be fighters I just want to get kids that are going the wrong way and keep their minds right, get them fit, if I can be a mentor to them, get them going, get them motivated that’d be good.

Lester’s biography, Fighting The Demons by Robert Drane is out now through ABC Books

An edited version of this interview appears in the December 2007 issue of Ralph magazine

Monday, November 12, 2007


He might have faced off against Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa but back in the real world Light Heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver wanted nothing to do with Aussie boxer Danny Green. After negotiations broke down for a title tilt at Tarver, Danny found himself with a better deal though, a WBA World Light Heavyweight title shot against former Paul Briggs victim Stipe Drews. And he gets to bring the fight home to Western Australia for Perth’s first ever World Title fight. I talked to the Green Machine as he prepared for the big day.

Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me Danny, how’s the training been going?

Pretty good. I’ve been training twice a day, six days a week. I usually have a six week preparation for a fight, I train for each and every fight like it’s a world title.
I don’t let myself go in my downtime, I’m only four or five kilos off weight whereas some guys, you know like Kostya Tszyu, will balloon up to in excess of twenty kilos over their fighting weight so it’s a long, arduous preparation to get in shape. I keep in shape 24/7 so it only takes me six weeks to reach my peak.

What about ring rust? You’ve only fought five rounds in the last year.

Well, time will tell come December 16th. We spar hundreds of rounds in the lead up so no I’m not concerned about it.

Are you disappointed that the fight with Antonio Tarver fell through?

Well, I’m fighting for the WBA light Heavyweight tile in my backyard in Perth and it’s a much bigger and more prestigious world title. The Tarver fight was an attraction because he was the opponent. But they absolutely stuffed us around, led us up the garden path for fourteen weeks. It’s crystal clear that Tarver had no intentions of ever fighting me. They kept moving the goal posts and changing the deal, chopping money, a fairly large amount of money off the top of the deal too, that we’d agreed to a month earlier so it was clear that Tarver was doing all in his power to get out of fighting me. But in the end it turns out I get the WBA world title fight in my backyard. It’s a much bigger and better fight for me so I’m very happy.

And what about your opponent Stipe Drews. Just how good is he?

He’s the WBA world Champion and a former European champion. They don’t just give world title belts out. He’s only been defeated once and he’s fought some very, very good opposition. He’s an awkward opponent but I’m relishing the chance of getting in there and winning the world title.

What’s next after the fight?

Well, two days later my wife is due to give birth so I’m hoping to be at the hospital waiting for my baby to come out and then when I wet the head hopefully I’ll be able to have a double celebration for the world title and the birth of my new baby. And I dare say I’ll tie on a fairly large one.

What about future fights? Any idea who’s next?

I’m concentrating just on winning the world title. I’m not going to put the horse before the cart. I won the super middleweight championship with the WBC and I want to become a two-division champion and win the WBA Light Heavyweight championship. I know what it takes to win a championship. In order to win it takes complete and utter focus on your upcoming opponent.
Against Stipe Drews I’m going to have to be extremely aggressive and not leave anything to chance. I never make bold or brash statements, that’s not my style but I’m confident that I have what it takes to defeat Drews.

You’ve had weight problems in the past. Is that all over now?

It’s no secret I struggled with my weight. When I’m off training I carry around 8% body fat and to go into a fight with less than 4%% body fat, you don’t have any reserves, you have no stores, you have no petrol in the tank. I’ve progressed into a natural light heavyweight. I was a super middleweight but I couldn’t make that weight anymore and I’m really happy because I can get up now and have breakfast.

There has been talk of a Mundine fight again in the future hasn’t there?

Yeah, obviously a rematch is something I want, I don’t like losing and I’d love to redeem myself. He (Mundine) started the ball rolling with a few quotes regarding me so I’d love to have a rematch and I’m more than happy to have that rematch as a world champion.

He’d have to come up in weight then?

Well mate I can’t make Supper Middle anymore, it’s unhealthy so yeah he’d have to come up.

What about boxing heroes? Do you have any?

I don’t have boxing heroes. I class the word hero in a totally different light than a lot of other people do. To me a hero is someone who’s dealt with tragedy or illness in their life and soldiered on. Or guys who go to work to put bread and butter on the table for their kids, going to a job they hate… for me that’s a hero. I’m blessed to earn a living doing something I love.

But in boxing, people I love watching, fighting and I guess just idolised growing up and now really respect, love their fights, their style of fighting were Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Muhammad Ali, Diego Corrales.

You have a five year old daughter, Chloe...

Yeah she’s the apple of my eye, she’ll be six in February She’s everything to me, the older she gets the closer we get. She got in trouble at school for elbowing a little girl and I’m in Sydney training and she’s in Perth so I rang up and she said, “Dad, I tried to lean over to see a book that was being read at book time and a girl elbowed me in the stomach so I elbowed her back.” And I couldn’t really tell her off because I’ve always taught her to stick up for herself and defend herself. You know I don’t want my daughter growing up and thinking that someone is going to have it over her. And if push comes to shove I want my daughter to be able to handle herself but at the same time she is only five years old and she’s gotta realise that most of the kids don’t know how to react. In one way I couldn’t tell her off because just she did what I told her to but in another way I had to pull her back and tell her “well love next time give them one chance and warn them and then fight back if that’s the case or you walk away.”

Does she understand what you do for a living?

She does, but I don’t let her watch my fights. For a little girl who’s father is her idol, her hero it’s very distressing to watch him getting punched in the face. She knows I’m a boxer and we’ll be walking along the street and people ask for an autograph or a photo and she kind of wonders, “What are these people doing?” but she’s kind of got the drift now. And I don’t make a big deal of it or anything, I want to make sure she’s completely grounded in her life.

Well, thanks for talking to us. I talked to Sakio Bika just before he did The Contender and he won, so I’m hoping for two out of two.

Wasn’t that f***** fantastic? I’m just so rapt for Sakio and his family. He’s come from Cameroon, done it hard over there and then come here and he gave Calzaghe a hard fight and now he’s made a real name for himself in America on the Contender so I’m just rapt to bits for him. I wish every fighter could do that for their family unfortunately they can’t but when I see someone like Sakio succeeding it just brings a smile to my face, I’m rapt.

Thanks for talking to us Danny and good luck with the fight, we’ll be watching.

No worries. Now I know what I said too mate so I don’t want any wobbly bits slipped into the interview.

(and I hope I haven’t!)

Danny Green Faces off against Stipe Drews on December 16th in Perth. Screening in pubs and clubs and on main event. Check your Foxtel guide for details.

Danny Green’s record: 27 fights – 24 wins (22 by ko) 3 defeats

Stipe Drews’ record : 33 fights – 32 wins (13 by ko) 1 defeat