Ted “Kid” Lewis – The Greatest Boxer From Great Britain
by Armando Paz
Perhaps second only to Jimmy Wilde, Ted “Kid” Lewis (192-32-14 79 KO’s) would be the greatest boxer that Great Britain would ever produce. Noted heavyweight champion and boxing historian Mike Tyson would exclaim, “Lewis would win bouts in all eight boxing divisions of his time.” In total, Lewis would win nine titles ranging from the featherweight to middleweight division. Despite never exceeding the current super- middleweight division Lewis would fight and defeat natural heavyweights. Ted “Kid” Lewis was born as Gershon Mendeloff in London’s east end to parents of Jewish heritage. The Judean Athletic Club would be the place where Lewis at the age of 14 would start to box. Lewis would win the sixpence and a cup of tea. However, he left with five pence as he gave back a penny for the cup of tea. The teenage Lewis would appear on the weekly Sunday show at the club and capture their flyweight title. Lewis would have an unsuspicious start as he lost his professional debut to Johnny Sharpe in 1909.*
At the age of 17, Lewis would win both the British and European featherweight title against Alec Lambert in 1913. Lewis would successfully defend the European title against Paul Til in 1914 via DQ victory. Lewis reputation increased with each victory and gain notoriety for popularizing the use of a mouthpiece. At the time, it was called
“Gumshield.” Lewis would increase his international appeal by fighting in Australia, Canada, and than coming to the United States.
In 1915, Lewis would face his biggest rival in his career Jack Briton for the world welterweight title. These two adversaries would meet for a total of 20 times in become of the biggest epic rivalries in the sport’s history. Briton an Irish-American detested Lewis due to his English Citizenry and perceived history of unsportsmanlike conduct. Lewis would suffer six disqualification losses in 238 official decisions. After their first match was declared a no decision, Lewis would win the welterweight title in Boston on August 31, 1915. Lewis won despite coming in under the lightweight limit. Lewis would evolve into more of a boxer puncher when he fought in the in United States. This played to a new audience that preferred slugfests over a pitchers duel. Lewis would play musical chairs with Britton as he would both lose and recapture the welterweight title in the next two years. In 1918, Lewis would meet Benny Leonard who is widely considered along with Joe Gans and Robert Duran as one of the top three lightweights of all time. The 8 round contest held in Newark, New Jersey would be ruled a draw. In St Patrick’s Day 1919 Lewis would again lose the welterweight title to Britton. Despite being a no- decision the rules stipulated a knockout would be the only way Lewis would lose the title.
In the ninth round, Lewis would get stopped by the Irish-American who was motivated by the Irish holiday. Lewis would fail in his attempt to capture the middleweight title against Mike O Dowd on September 1, 1919. It appeared that the best days of Ted Kid Lewis were now past him. Lewis would prove his detractors wrong by capturing both the British and European middleweight titles. He would eventually add the British light heavyweight and welterweight titles. Lewis would fall short of the European heavyweight title after the controversial “sucker punch” knockout loss to Charles Carpentier in 1922. Lewis would have his final bout in the states in 1928 when he lost to light heavyweight Maxie Rosenbloom via sixth round disqualification. Lewis would in
his post-fight career work in the world of politics and film. His son was a noted British filmmaker and Lewis would help in production of film. Lewis would also work for the New Party chief Oswald Mosley. However, when Lewis discovered the anti-semitic policies of the British Union of Fascists were also endorsed by Mosley he would resign after an infamous fisticuff altercation with Mosley and two of his associates.
Lewis would be elected into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1964, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, and the old-timers section of the International Boxing Hall of fame in 1992.
Note: * Some sources have Lewis professional debut against Kid Da Costa in 1909.