IN my last article I stated that Ted Kid Lewis won the British featherweight title at seventeen. This was long thought to be the case although there was much uncertainty over the matter. It is now believed that young Ted falsified the year of his birth and records books of the period list him as being born in both 1894 and 1896. When his son, Morton Lewis, produced the biography of his father in 1990 he stated that Ted had, in fact, been born in October 1893, making him nineteen at the time of his championship victory. This was still a remarkably young age to win a British title and he was, at the time, the youngest man to do so. His record was eventually broken by Eric Boon, who won the British lightweight title in 1938 at eighteen.
Lewis beat Alec Lambert to win his title on October 6, 1913 at the National Sporting Club in Covent Garden. At the time, all British championship bouts were held at the Club, and the committee, as well as arranging the contests and awarding the Lonsdale Belt that went along with them, also selected the challenger and, as was the case in this contest, decided upon the two men who would box for a vacant title. The Club had a monopoly on the organisation of boxing within Britain and were the forerunners of the BBBofC, who eventually took over these responsibilities in 1929.
Jim Driscoll retired as British featherweight champion in 1913 shortly after his victory over Owen Moran. There were many good quality challengers, but as most of them tended to beat each other when matched, no two obvious men stood out. In an editorial, the editor of BN, John Murray, stated that “outside Jim Driscoll, Owen Moran and Spike Robson we must confess that we fail to see anybody at all.” With Driscoll retired, Moran on an Australian tour and Robson on the slide, Murray failed to spot the potential of the young Lewis. The NSC then matched Lewis with Joe Starmer of Kettering and after the Kid had roundly beaten Starmer on points, his potential started to become clearer. After four more very convincing victories the Club matched him with Lambert for the vacant title.
Lambert was trained by his father, Professor Lambert, and he had beaten Jack Greenstock, another Londoner, in a final eliminator in June 1913. For the title contest Lambert set up his camp at the Norfolk Arms in Wembley, and Lewis was ensconced at the Black Bull in Whetstone. The Norfolk Arms is still there today, although the Black Bull was demolished as recently as 2008. In this period, and until the second world war, it was common for boxers to train at a public house, where they would take up residence two or three weeks before the contest and train in a private room within the hostelry. They attracted interest from sporting men and the pub did well as a consequence. These two public houses played host to many champions and contenders for very many years.
Lambert was the ABA featherweight champion in 1909 and he had lost 14 of his 54 contests. I think that there were more worthy contenders, but Lambert was well-connected and, as a successful amateur, stood out. The fact that he was a Londoner also helped, as up-and-coming provincial boxers were at a disadvantage in that they were not necessarily seen by the powers that be on the NSC committee.
Lewis looked drawn at the weigh-in and, as he was almost a lightweight by this time, he must have struggled to make nine stone. After the contest he stated that he had never felt stronger and he beat Lambert fairly easily, knocking him out in the 17th round. BN stated that only time would tell if Lewis would ever be as good as his predecessor, Driscoll. He certainly was!