By Clive Bernath: Although initially surprised when I read that British referee Ian John Lewis was to take charge of the WBC heavyweight title clash between Vitali Klitschko and Juan Carlos Gomez next month I was also very pleased.
The mild mannered 46 year-old from Gillingham in Kent has refereed countless British, European and world title fights over the years but when I heard he was to be the third man in the ring for the heavyweight championship of the world. memories of Ian as fighter quickly came flooding back.
Many die hard British boxing fans will know Ian was a pretty handy welterweight in the late 1980’s, a very brave one and much better than his 14-6-(9), record suggested. I’ll come back to my memories of Ian in his fighting days later.
In all industries the world over there are some people better at their chosen profession than others and officiating in the sport of boxing is no different. John Lewis is fast establishing himself a reputation as one of the best, even though he has only been a Class A Star referee for a short while in comparison to some.
I have followed Ian’s career very closely from the day he refereed his first professional contest as a non scoring referee in 1993. Even in the early days it was clear that John Lewis was a natural as the third man. I remember sitting at ringside, making notes as a fledgling reporter that he instinctively intervened at precisely the right time when a boxer was hurt and unable to continue. He also allowed fights to flow and only stepped in when it was absolutely necessary to do so.
As the years went on John Lewis perfected his trade to the high standard he commands today. He is not the type of referee that enjoys or uses the sound of his own voice purely for the sake of it. Though he is softly spoken he puts his point across perfectly and firmly, as indeed a good referee should.
There are other reasons, though, why I believe John Lewis is a natural third man in the ring? Being a former fighter he understands them, he sees, feels and takes every punch with them.
As I said I remember John Lewis as very tough fighter and have fond memories and one in particular when he fought Trevor Smith for the vacant Southern Area welterweight title in 1989. In those days I attended a boxing gym in west London and there were quite a few pros training there. One of those was a very hard hitting unbeaten welterweight by the name of Trevor Smith. Trevor was also a lovely down to earth fella but took no prisoners in the ring. He was 12-0 at the time with seven stoppages.
To cut a long story short Smith knocked down the brave and stubborn John Lewis five times and was floored himself before stopping John Lewis inside eight brutal rounds. It was one of the most exciting and brutal fights ever seen in a small hall boxing ring. In fact a very tired but relieved Smith said afterwards ‘Thank f**k he stayed down the fifth time I don’t think I could of carried on much longer’
John Lewis is indeed a proud man and very proud to be refereeing Klitschko vs Gomez for the WBC heavyweight title. Talking to Kent online.com shortly after hearing the news John Lewis said: "The thought of refereeing a fight like this is just something I would dream about.
"It’s going to be an honour to referee this match and I can’t believe it. They’ll be fighting for the heavyweight belt which Ali won, which Tyson won, which Lennox Lewis won and now Klitschko has won.
"This is the ultimate for me and I’m obviously impressing the right people. Hopefully this will open even more doors for me now."
February 25, 2009