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


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