East End Boxer, Ted Lewis, dead

Sadly Ted Lewis died peacefully in his sleep on 7th August 2017, just before his 88th birthday.

Ted Lewis in April 2016

Ted came into the world at 5 Ordell Road, Bow, near Tom Thumb’s Arch, way back in August 1929. He was hop picking in Kent when war was declared in 1939, and came back to a changed London, many of the children had already left. Ted was evacuated to a farm in Devon and I recently recorded his memories, which you can listen to here.

He returned to London to start work, just in time for Hitler’s V1 and V2 rockets. His father said he had to get a proper job with good prospects, so he got a job in a printers, but he didn’t like being indoors all day, and one day got his fingers caught and crushed in a book bending machine (for attaching the spine).

Ted joined his father working in the Billingsgate fishmarket and at 18 got his fish porters license. Ted loved Billingsgate, and worked there for 50 years. Andy Porter has previously posted this video of Ted talking about Billingsgate.

Ted came from a long family line of boxers, but they didn’t encourage Ted to become one. Ted went to a local youth club where one day somebody suggested that he put some gloves on to provide a sparing partner for someone. Ted won three fights that night. He said he was lucky in that he was “born with a punch”. So he started boxing as an amateur, turning professional in 1947.

Ted Lewis with his family history

Teddy Lewis fought 38 professional fights, won 29 and knocked out his opponents in 21 of those. He said he was a very aggressive fighter, even as an amateur, which convinced him he should turn professional. He’s not impressed with the boxers he sees today. Ted fought and won four times at Mile End Arena in 1948 (pictured at the top of this article). You can see his boxing record here.

He said he stopped fighting in 1951 after getting a cut eye which kept reopening.

Working as a fish porter at Billingsgate kept Ted fit, and it had the advantage of an early finish enabling Ted to go to the gym.

At that time fairgrounds had boxing booths where members of the public were enticed to have a go by the promoter shouting, “£1 if you can last 3 rounds, £5 if you can knock him out.” Ted fought regularly under the assumed name of Teddy Barlett in a travelling booth run by Tommy Woods. He fought many unofficial fights at racetracks all around the country, including the Epsom Derby. Ted said that you had to be careful with the amateurs and street fighters (gangsters) not knock them out immediately. The audience had paid 2 shillings each to see a fight, so Ted would keep the fight going for going for a few rounds. Sometimes no members of the public would come forwards so the disguised professionals would fight each other. In this case the action was staged. Ted gives the example that his opponent might say, “Hit me on the jaw,” so Ted would hit him on the shoulder with the flat of his hand producing a big “whack” sound and his opponent would accordingly throw his head back.

Ted was earning a lot of money and he and his girlfriend Betty, later his wife, would go to all the West End shows, dine out and dress well. Ted said, “I suppose you would call me a wide-boy.”

I have only known Ted for a couple of years, and will remember him as a kind and generous man. Friends and family are working on a more detailed obituary, which will follow.

The funeral is at 10am on Tues 22nd Aug at the City of London Crematorium, Manor Park. All who remember Ted Lewis are welcome to attend.

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