Lewis has fighting shot at redemption
Published 8 August 2016 (AEDT)
BOXING: Five years ago Daniel Lewis’ Olympic dream was shattered along with his jaw and a medical opinion that he should never fight again.
Fortunately for Australian boxing, the 22-year-old middleweight sought a second opinion and this Tuesday, 9 August, he gets a chance at redemption as he chases Australia’s first Olympic boxing medal in 28 years in his Olympic debut in Rio.
Lewis has drawn Poland’s Tomasz Jablonski in the first round of the middleweight division (75kg), featuring 28 starters.
If successful he faces Uzbekistan’s No. 2 seed Bektemir Melikuziev on Friday, 12 August. To make the gold medal round, he has to win through four rounds.
Lewis is confident about his medal chances after a solid preparation in which he was crowned Australian and Oceania champion as well as claiming gold at the 2015 Doha International Tournament, where he was named athlete of the tournament.
Lewis has spent the past 10 weeks training alongside Australian heavyweight Olympic team-mate Jason Whateley, which included a pre-Olympic camp in the US.
Unfortunately for Whateley, his Olympic dream is over after a Preliminary Round loss at the hands of Brazilian Juan Nogueira and a deafening home-crowd which aggressively booed him as he entered the ring yesterday.
The hometown hero was awarded the bout with a unanimous 3-0 decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Lewis is one of three members of the Australian Olympic boxing team, with Shelley Watts, 28, also set to make her Olympic debut on Friday in the women’s lightweight division (57-60kg) against the youngest boxer in the field of 12, Italian Irma Testa, 18.
The path to Rio has been a challenging one for Lewis, who was on target for an Olympic debut in London four years ago.
“I broke my jaw in the Olympic qualifier in 2011 and I had a year off,” said Lewis, from Londonderry, in western Sydney.
“The doctor told me I shouldn’t fight again but I decided to get a second opinion. That doctor told me I could and I haven’t looked back since.”
A year after returning from injury, Lewis, just 19, claimed his first open national title and then backed it up in 2014, but he was denied the chance of a Commonwealth Games medal later that year after he was ruled out of competition with a cut above his eye.
“I wanted to redeem myself (for missing 2012 Olympic selection) and I was in good form,” he said.
“My parents flew over to Glasgow; my preparation was awesome then I got a cut and couldn’t compete.
“This is my chance at redemption … it’s been a five-year wait. Winning the Olympic gold medal is definitely the pinnacle in boxing.”
When not involved in the national boxing program Lewis is trained by his dad, Jason Lewis, a former boxer who had 60 fights including bouts in Australian and Oceania championships. He also works for his Dad in a quarry, operating heavy machinery.
Lewis said he had wanted to box for as long as he could remember and started when he was 10.
He had to travel to Tasmania and the ACT to fight because NSW laws would not allow him to take to the ring until he was 14.
“Dad never forced me, he just encouraged me,” said Lewis.
“I did everything at school – rugby league, cricket, soccer – but when I was 14 I took boxing seriously.
“I got a TKO in my first fight as an 11-year-old and it was then that I knew I was definitely going to be a boxer.
“Dad didn’t want me to rush it. He let me mature into it.”
Daniel’s older brother Billy, 24, also was a boxer and the pair trained together until he gave it up when he was 18. His sister Kristal, 21, did one fight when she was 18, just to “try it”.
“No one picked on us at school … and they didn’t touch my little sister either,” Lewis said.
Lewis has a son Levi, who is almost two, and he said he would take the same approach with him in regard to boxing as his dad did.
Post the Olympic Games Lewis is keen to train for the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast before turning pro and chasing his dream to be a world champion.
Preliminary Round, Middleweight (75kg) division – From 6:45pm Tuesday, 9 August, time (7:45am AEST 10 August)