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September 13, 2017

Courtesy of the WBF

“The Master Blaster”, Australian-raised Lester Ellis had a career that spanned five different weight classes spread out over forty-nine fights between 1983 and 1996, with a one-off comeback in 2002. Ellis was born in March 1965 in Blackpool, England. The youngest of three sons to Sheila and Keith Ellis Sr., Lester migrated to Australia with his family when he was only three years old, making him a significant name in Australian boxing history rather than British.

Only two years after relocating to the Melbourne area of Victoria state, mother Sheila left the family home and her three sons to be looked after by Keith Sr. on his own. To make matters worse, she left for her husband's best friend and five year-old Lester took this very hard, developing into a somewhat troubled young man.

But at the age of twelve, inspired by the first Rocky movie, he joined the Glengala Boxing Club in West Sunshine, a suburb to Melbourne, where trainer Matthew Quin saw great potential in the young man and helped him deal with his demons through boxing.

As has been the case with so many, boxing likely saved Ellis from going down the wrong path: “I came from a commission area and a broken-up family. We had no money, we were doing it hard”, Ellis said in an interview a few years ago. “I was no good at school, I was pretty much illiterate. But through boxing I wanted to read about the world champions and how they were guided and got motivated, and what they did to get better, so I became a better reader.”

In six years as an amateur boxer, Ellis fought fifty times and won forty five. He won four Australian national championships and six Victoria state championships, before he was deemed ready to turn professional in April of 1983, only a month after his eighteenth birthday. 

And there was no holding back at the start of his paid career. After two quick wins over Ben Lappori (5-6-3) and Roy Hughes (26-34-7), who Ellis knocked out in three and two rounds, he beat former two-weight Australian champion Brian Roberts (35-15-6) by technical decision in his third outing.

Next was another ex-Australian titlist in Gary Williams (25-5), who Ellis demolished in two. Kirk Blair (31-20-3) was stopped in five, Jeff Smith (20-6) in eight, American import Richard Fowler (11-6) in ten, while Welshman Steve Sims (12-9-1) and Japan's Kiyoshi Sasaki (12-2-1) managed to take Ellis the full distance before losing on points.

On November 16, 1984 Ellis won the Commonwealth super featherweight title when he dethroned John Sichula (17-0-1) from Zambia by split decision at Festival Hall in Melbourne. In less than nineteen months he had compiled a 14-0 record, won his first title, and broke into the world rankings.

It is safe to say that his handlers had great confidence in Ellis, still only nineteen years old, because when the opportunity came to bring IBF super featherweight champion Hwan-Kil Yuh (25-1-3) from South Korea to Melbourne for a defense, they jumped at it.

On February 15, 1985, back at Festival Hall, Ellis fought way beyond his years and came out on top after fifteen hard
rounds to become one of the sport's youngest world champions in history by split decision. It was truly an amazing achievement, and not one expected by someone still a teenager. 

Two months later Ellis retained his world title when he stopped Filipino Rod Sequenan (43-9-3) in the thirteenth stanza. It had been a competitive and grueling encounter fought at close quarters, until Ellis staggered Sequenan with a left hand and pummeled him until he finally went down for the full count just as the bell rang.

Taking into account the intensity of that fight, perhaps it was too early to return for his second defense only two-and-a-half
months on, because Ellis lost his IBF title the following July when fellow British-born Australian, ex training partner turned Melbourne rival, Barry Michael (44-8-3) was awarded a unanimous decision. It was a massive fight, another war at Festival Hall, with over six thousand screaming fans and plenty of local pride and
bragging rights at stake besides the IBF world title, so it was a bitter pill to swallow for Ellis. He had looked up to Michael, ten years his senior, before their relationship turned sour in the build-up to their fight.

"I still say I went in with too much respect for Barry”, said Ellis in another interview. “I really believe that if I never knew Barry, if he was from another country and I had never seen him before, I would have fought a lot better. How can you fight your idol?"

But at 22 years of age he had plenty of time to get his career back on track. He rebounded with victories in two low-level fights, but there would be more agony before 1985 was over as former foe John Sichula (19-1-1) returned to Australia and got his revenge by stopping Ellis in four rounds of a scheduled ten on December 16th.

It looked to be an uphill battle back to the top, but Ellis was prepared to pay his dues and take the long road. During the
next six years he won fifteen of eighteen bouts, winning Australian national titles at lightweight and light welterweight, as well as the Commonwealth light welterweight title.

In early 1993 he finally got his chance on the international stage when he was pitted against American Rocky Berg (60-35-2) for the WBF welterweight belt, left vacant by Roger Turner. Ellis was a heavy favorite going in, but Berg was expected to present more of a challenge than he did.

Headlining at the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre in Adelaide, Ellis wasted little time and quickly took control of the fight in the first round, before getting rid of the out-gunned Berg already in round two.

Looking for new challenges, Ellis decided to “fill in the blanks” and dopped back down in weight. He lost a non title bout at lightweight to former IBF featherweight champion Calvin Grove (44-5) by split decision and then moved back up to 140 pounds.

In December of 1994, he captured the IBO light welterweight crown with a blistering first round knockout of Al Coquilla (22-8-3) from the Philippines, and added the IBO lightweight title three months later by outscoring another Filipino, the defending champion Amando Cabato (44-23-8).

Then, he then went up three weights to win the vacant IBO junior middleweight belt in July of 1994, scoring a unanimous decision 
over American Eric Alexander (10-5-1).

That would be his last significant success in the ring. In April of 1996 he lost a rematch to Calvin Grove (48-8), and

In July of 2002, thirty-seven years old, he made an ill-advised comeback at Super Middleweight, getting stopped in the third round to future champion Anthony Mundine (13-1).

Two Australian titles, two Commonwealth titles, a major world championship and four minor ones, and a final record of 41-8 with 28 KOs over a long career. 

Few boxers can brag to have accomplished even half of what Lester Ellis accomplished. These days Ellis lives in Melbourne-suburb Taylor Hills with wife Sharron, and runs the Lester Ellis Fitness Academy. They have four sons, Lester Jr., Darcy, Dempsey and Jake. Jake followed in his fathers footsteps for a short while, and became a professional boxer, winning two fights in 2012-2013.

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