FOR most amateur boxers, the transition to the professional game can be long and arduous.
With that in mind, few have been tabbed for success in the paid ranks like hard-hitting former Olympian Daniel Lewis, who makes his professional debut in Melbourne next month.
Since topping his division at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2011, Lewis has been groomed for stardom, tipped by most insiders as the best talent to the ditch his amateur vest in recent years.
However, it almost wasn’t to be as the 25-year-old took an extended absence after the Olympic Games in Rio.
“I just got over travelling and wanted to have a break, be with my family and live a normal life,” Lewis told Aus-Boxing.
“I got stuck in a rut, and let myself go a bit too much. I had a look in the mirror, was 30 kilos overweight, and wanted to be the best person I could for my son. I always knew I wanted to fight again.”
Living the life of an athlete is often ritualistic, leading to over indulgence during breaks.
For Lewis, this began a negative cycle which took the life-long Western Sydney resident some time to shake, reaching an unhealthy weight.
But with time and achievable short-term goals, Lewis began his journey to a career rebirth.
“I was 106 kilograms and blown out, I’d never been that fat in my life,” he revealed.
“When I first started training again, I could only run two kilometres. It came down to little goals, week-by-week and month-by-month.
“It’s only been six months of training hard and training everyday. But my first goal was to get under 100 kilograms and work from there.”
Having beaten a plethora of promising prospects in his decorated amateur career, including former Commonwealth titleholder Anthony Buttigieg and Tim Tsyzu, watching their progression from afar proved difficult.
And while he didn’t face Jeff Horn as an amateur, favourable sparring sessions against the former world champion only added fuel to the fire.
“It was hard for me, I was overweight watching all these guys that I’ve sparred and fought fighting on mainstream television,” he explained.
“I was Jeff Horn’s main sparring to the Olympics and I have a lot of respect for him, but they were saying to me at the time that it should’ve been me going to the Olympics instead of him.
“I beat Tim Tszyu in the amateurs as well, I was the only person to beat him before he stopped boxing.
“But it’s no disrespect to any of them. My career is going to continue unfolding as will theirs, and we’ll keep going from there.”
Since returning to the sport with a renewed passion, Lewis has hand-picked his new team, led by regarded trainer Graham Shaw.
Meanwhile, the managerial duties will be handled by respected former unified regional titleholder Peter Mitrevski Jr.
“I’ve known Pete for about 10 years or so, something like that,” Lewis continued.
“My dad fought him in the amateurs when I was a young kid and at one point I was sparring Pete and Garth Wood when they were with Johnny Lewis, and stayed in touch since then.
“Pete recommended that I come down and see Graham, I’d heard nothing but good things. We connected and I thought straight away that this is going to be my trainer.
“It’s good to know that he’s done what he’s done in the past with the likes of Daniel Geale, as our paths are pretty similar.
“My goal is to be world champion, not just fight for it, but win. He’s been in the corner for big fights.”
Lewis will make his highly anticipated debut as a super middleweight, competing on March 23rd at The Timber Yard in Port Melbourne. His debut will be part of the inaugural event hosted by Will Tomlinson’s new promotional venture, WILDFIGHTER.
The event will see Lewis connect with long-time friend and fellow Olympian, Jason Whateley, who will headline the card.
“Jason and I have travelled together and went to the Olympics together,” he said.
“He’s a really good friend of mine and we’ve always stayed in touch. He’s an awesome bloke and I’m excited to compete with him again, like the old days.”
Seen by many as a blue-chip prospect, Lewis is excited to compete on the card promoted by Tomlinson, who competed at the highest level professionally.
“Will has been there and done it before himself,” he concluded.
“From what I’ve seen and been told, it feels like this card and the night is going to be awesome, he’s doing something different as well. He’s fought himself and knows what the fighters want.
“I think Will has got a good brand and everything he’s done, the little things that people ignore, is going to make a difference in the arena.
“I can’t wait to get out there and show people what I’ve got.”
Tickets to the inaugural WILDFIGHTER event can be purchased on their website.
Photo: Annie Bui