During his career Ted “Kid” Lewis won 9 titles at weights ranging from featherweight to middleweight. Ted Lewis was born in London 24 Oct 1894 and was to start boxing professionally at the age of 14. It seems a street brawl in 1909 prompted a local police officer to suggest to Lewis he could “get paid for fighting’ by boxing at the local Judean Club. In that year he made his debut appearance as a boxer and in 1911 he was to sign his first professional contract for sixteen fights at the Premierland boxing hall on Back Church Lane, East London.
In 1913, Lewis was the first boxer to use a protective mouthpiece. It was designed for him by his dentist, Jack Marks, himself a former fighter. The mouthpiece soon became—and continues to be—standard equipment in the sport of boxing.
In 1914, after winning the British (October 1913) and the European (February 1914) featherweight titles at the Premierland boxing hall on Back Church Lane, East London, he went to Australia where he had five 20 round contests all within a period of 63 days. At that time he was the youngest ever holder of the British Featherweight title.
He then moved onto the United States, as a welterweight, and during the course of the next 5 years he was to win the World title twice, have 10 championship bouts and in total won 26 fights, lost 5, drawn 2 and also chalk up 63 no-decision contests – the majority of which it was judged he won. On moving to the United States Lewis was to meet, in New York, his future wife Elsie Schneider. His celebrity status was such that Charlie Chaplin was to become the godfather of their son.
When he won a 12-round decision over World Welterweight Champion Jack Britton in Boston on August 31, 1915, he was the first Englishman to win a world boxing title in the United States. He and the American Britton were to fight 20 times between 1915 and 1921, with Lewis losing the title to Britton in 1916, regaining it the following year, and losing it for the final time in March 1919.
After the First World War he returned to England ( Dec 1919) and won a further six British and European titles. He relinquished his claim to the British Empire and European Welterweight titles in December 1920. In June 1921, he won the British Middleweight crown, and less than four months later, the European Middleweight title.
In May 1922 he challenged George Carpentier for the world light heavyweight crown. Carpentier scored a dramatic knockout in the first round when Lewis turned to make a protest to the ref and left himself wide open. Jack Dempsey who missed the knockout , he was signing autographs at the time, said “It was merely a matter of a game man against a good big man” .
However in mid-June of the same year he KO’d Frankie Burns to win the Empire Middleweight title. Lewis lost the last of his European boxing crowns in November 1924.
Upon his ring retirement in 1929, after twenty years a fighter, the gambling, generous Kid Lewis was not well off, in spite of estimates that his ring earnings in the United States alone exceeded a half a million dollars. In 1931 Oswald Mosley as a youth training instructor employed him. As Lewis became aware of the true politics of Mosley he resigned by knocking him across the room and on his way out got two more guys for good measure.
At the age of 63 he had a new role as assistant to his son who was by then a prominent film director in London.
In 1966, Lewis now a widower, moved to Nightingale House, a home for aged Jews in Clapham. It was there he died in 1970 at the age of 77. Mike Tyson said Lewis was “probably the greatest fighter to come out of Britain.” Lewis was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.
On the 25 September 2003 his achievements where commemorated by an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The plaque was unveiled on his former home Nightingale House, Nightingale Lane, Clapham, by his son Morton Lewis.
How do today’s fighters compare to the great Ted ‘Kid’ and the old time champions? It is a debate that gets all the modern day fans wondering and debating about. The training techniques may not have been as advanced back in the day and technique has changed no doubt. Did the the fighters of yesteryear like the ‘Kid’ have an hunger and desire to fight for survival in a time of less social advantage? A question for a debate maybe? Until next time…
Name: Ted Kid Lewis Career Record: click Birth Name: Gershon Mendeloff Nationality: British Birthplace: St George’s,London, Eng Hometown: London, England Born: 1893-10-28 Died: 1970-10-20 Age at Death: 76 Height: 5′ 8½″ Trainer: Mannie Seamon
- Brother of Lon “Kid” Lewis.
- Generally credited with being the first fighter to use a mouthpiece; at the very least he was the first notable fighter to use one.
By Rob Snell