John “Vulcan” Seru – a really big boxing fan
John "Vulcan" Seru
By Paul Upham: While there are lots of celebrities around the world who would classify as big boxing fans, not many of them make such an imposing physical impact as John “Vulcan” Seru. Standing 191cm tall and weighing around 120kg, the former “Gladiator” television series star can be seen regularly at boxing matches, training sessions and press conferences, soaking up the atmosphere and hanging out with what he sees as the best elite athletes on the planet.
“Boxing to me is the ultimate sport,” said Seru. “I don’t care what anyone else says. When you are playing a team football sport, you are just one of the 13 or 15 players. There are times to rest. In boxing there is you and your opponent. You are elevated up in the ring so everyone can see what you are doing and there is nowhere to hide.”
Born in Fiji in January 1964, Seru came to live in Australia at the age of 16. In 1995, he received a huge opportunity when cast as “Vulcan” in the new “Gladiator” television show on the Channel 7 network. His character was the bad boy of the Gladiators during three series from 1995 to 1997. Such an impact did he make on Australian television, Seru was even nominated for a “Most Popular New Talent” Logie television award in 1996.
Seru transferred to the “Gladiators” show in the United Kingdom from 1998 to 1999. It was during this time in London that he was cast as villain henchman “Gabor” in the James Bond film “The World Is Not Enough”, acting alongside international stars Pierce Brosnan, Denise Richards, Sophie Marceau and Judi Dench.
“While Gladiator was hard physically,” explained Seru, “acting is just as hard with your mental preparation. You have to get in the zone. You have to know exactly what you are saying and doing. It is how you interpret the script.”
During his time in London, Seru met one of his favourite boxers in heavyweight world champion Lennox Lewis.
“Lennox was making a public appearance at an awards expo in London,” said Seru. “I wanted to meet him, but there was a queue for miles. I was with a friend who knew one of Lennox’s friends and they arranged for us to meet. Lennox walked up to me, shook my hand and said ‘Vulcan, great to see you. You are a crazy man.’”
It demonstrated to Seru how visible he had become around the world as a Gladiator.
John Seru with Sophie Marceau in "The World Is Not Enough"
“Especially in London, Gladiator was really big there,” he agreed. “One day I was walking around the streets of London and got lost. I asked a policeman for directions and he told me how horrible I was to one of the contestants on the show. He hated my character and didn’t really want to help me.”
Seru has always loved the sport of boxing and adopted it as part of his fitness training.
“Growing up in Fiji, you are either a rugby union player or a boxer,” he said. “Boxers work so hard and people don’t realise that the boys get hurt just in sparring. For Anthony Mundine to be an elite player in ruby league and then go to another sport and become a world champion is very impressive. In America, Deion Sanders played top level American football and baseball, but he wasn’t taking the hits that Mundine has. Michael Jordan played basketball and then couldn’t make it in baseball. You must always give boxing its respect and recognise those who have achieved success in it.”
Seru first met boxing great Kostya Tszyu in the 1990’s when “Gladiator” was at its peak.
“Someone tapped me on the shoulder one day at the Cronulla Leagues Club,” he said, “and asked me if I would meet Kostya, who wanted a photo with me. We talked and he was a great guy. In January 2004, I was sitting with Mal Meninga and Jason Stevens at the Mundine-Nishizawa fight. Kostya saw me and he was sitting with Nicole Kidman. He waved me over to see them and told me he named his dog ‘Vulcan’ after me.”
Seru especially enjoyed the Anthony Mundine-Danny Green rivalry and how it brought boxing to mainstream media attention.
“The first time I met Danny Green was at the Enmore Theatre in June 2002 when Solomon Haumono fought there,” he said. “I went to the Sydney Football Stadium for Mundine-Green just to be there and enjoy the event. I told my mates it has to be the biggest fight ever in Australian history. Where else can you go to watch boxing on a football field?”
“When Danny fought Roy Jones Jr,” Seru continued, “Roy Jones was everyone’s favourite. He was the superman of boxing. I was watching both of them at ringside when they entered the ring and I told me friend Nigel then and there, ‘Danny Green is going to knock him out in the first round’. I could see it in their eyes. Roy had nervous eyes, while Danny was just so focused.”
It is not just the big fights you can see Seru at. He often attends the smaller local shows and has even worked as a ring announcer with his deep authoritative voice for Cronulla promoter/boxer Ryan Waters.
“I love the local fights,” he said. “This is where it all starts. It just takes one special person to go all the way. Ryan Waters is doing a great job as a promoter and boxer.”
46 year-old Seru has been visible recently on Australian television on the Channel 9 network’s drama “Underbelly: The Golden Mile”. “I really enjoyed the role,” he said, of playing John Ibrahim’s bodyguard and confidante “Kiwi Steve”. “It was just so cold when we started filming last year in August.”
While acting remains an active passion for him, Seru still runs his own gymnasium and a fitness supply business in Menai, NSW. You can find him most mornings working out in his gym or supervising the programs of his students, with a set of signed Lennox Lewis trunks mounted on the wall of the “Club Vulcan” gymnasium.
A likeable character whose serious acting scowl hides a fun side that enjoys a laugh, Seru can quote you the most interesting facts about local and overseas boxing matches and boxers from the past and present. “I just love the sport of boxing,” he says.
"Kiwi Steve" (John Seru) watches "Hammer" (Salvatore Coco) in "Underbelly"