A BOXER is dreaming of a Commonwealth Games 2022 gold medal after being inspired by the Leamington’s ‘colour-bar’ breaking boxing legend and his world champion brother.
Heavyweight Lewis Williams hopes to honour the legacy of Dick, Jackie and Randolph Turpin after being selected to represent England at the Birmingham Games.
Whitnash resident Lewis wants to add his name to the list of champions from Warwick and Leamington – towns steeped in often overlooked boxing heritage.
Leamington-born black British boxer Randolph Turpin beat all-time great Sugar Ray Robinson to become world champion in 1951.
His brother Dick, who won a Commonwealth Games gold medal, is credited with breaking the so-called ‘colour bar’ in 1948 which had blocked non-white boxers from competing professionally for titles.
The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC), the sport’s governing body in the UK, honoured their achievements at its annual awards show in March.
Their brother Jackie was also recognised for continuing the Turpins’ legacy by fighting and opening gyms in the area. Jackie also trained Edwin Clearly, the owner of Cleary’s Gym, who went on to become Lewis’ trainer.
The award recognised the late brothers’ contribution to UK boxing, and to black British sport.
Lewis – aged 23 and standing at 6 foot 6 tall – is one of England’s top prospects after securing a bronze medal at the European Championships this year.
He’s received the backing of the Turpin family, the town’s MP Matt Western and its bustling boxing community ahead of the Games’ opening fights today (Thursday).
Last year he reached the quarter finals of the world championships, and he is now ranked seventh in the world in his weight class.
The BBBofC award was this month donated by the Turpin family to the exhibition on the brothers at the Leamington Art Gallery and Museum.
Lewis said: “I wanted to visit the Turpin exhibition at the museum in Leamington before the Games begin.
“Their legacy in our area has always been inspiring to me as a young, mixed-race fighter.
“I may never have been able to do what I do now without these pioneering boxers who happen to have lived here in my community.
“Of course, I’m dreaming big and aiming for the top prize – just as they did.
“And I hope to dedicate my success to them along with my trainer Edwin Cleary and many other inspirational people in my life.”
Warwick and Leamington MP Mr Western has been campaigning for the government and major boxing institutions to recognise the brothers – and helped secure the BBBofC award.
Mr Western joined family members at the museum a fortnight ago to see the award on display.
“It’s great to be able to see Lewis following in the footsteps of our town’s boxing legends,” he said.
“We’re all behind him and it was great to show him the award and the exhibition.
“Without those two great men, Lewis may never have been able to compete at the highest level as he is now – and I can see he is more than aware of their significance.”
Dick’s son Keith Turpin said: “We’re looking forward to seeing Lewis compete.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Commonwealth champion in Warwick or Leamington.
“But we’ve got a great boxing heritage here and the gyms, some my family supported or opened, have got a great track record of producing talent.
“Uncle Jackie training Cleary who then trained Lewis shows the indelible connection he has to the legacy of my family.
“It’s great to have the award for Dick, Randy and Jackie in the museum on show so more residents can be inspired by their story, as Lewis clearly is.
“Good luck to him.”
Cleary’s Boxing Gym in Leamington, which Lewis has attended since he was a child, has recently nurtured two other young talents set to compete at this year’s European Championships in Turkey.
Jaya Kalsi, 12, and Serena Mali, 13, attend secondary schools in Warwick but are tipped for bright futures in the sport.
In the 1920s, Dick was born in Warwick and Randolph – also known as the ‘Leamington licker’ – in Leamington, but they spent much of their life in both towns.
A statue of Randolph still stands in Warwick town square while a blue plaque was recently erected in honour of Dick’s achievements outside Sainsbury’s in Saltisford.