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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Ted Kid Lewis, the Innovator

Ted "Kid" Lewis, born Gershon Mendeloff on October 28, 1893, was one of the best boxers of all time. Piling up over 200 wins from weight classes ranging from bantamweight to light heavy, Lewis held the welterweight world championship twice. Nicknamed, "The Algate Sphinx," he faced many Hall of Fame fighters including Benny Leonard, Maxie Rosenbloom, and Jack Britton. The "smashing, dashing, crashing" Kid could box, but more often he fought like a tornado, constantly pressuring his opponents while his hands whipped towards them.

In addition to his many ring accomplishments, Lewis was also an innovator. He is often credited as the first boxer to wear a reusable mouthpiece, called a gumshield in his native Britain.

Kid's dentist in his hometown of London, Jack Marks, fitted Lewis with the mouthpiece. "I was sitting in Jack's dentist chair," Ted later remembered, "with a mould in my mouth as he was taking an impression, and I asked him if he could make me something like it, but smaller, that I could wear in the ring. He said he didn't see why not."

Lewis continued, "At that time boxers were putting orange or lemon peel between their lips and teeth to protect them. Well, I made about six to eight visits for fitting, all the while trying them out in the gym. Finally, one worked and that's how the gumshield was born." (Lewis, pg. 78)

His son Morton lamented, "[I]f he and Jack Marks, his dentist back in London, had realized what they had been developing over the years, they might well have become millionaires." But neither ever patented the invention.

Before his twentieth and final fight against Jack Britton, which took place on February 7, 1921 at Madison Square Garden, Britton's corner complained that the mouthpiece gave Lewis an unfair advantage and he was forced to remove it. Britton won the fifteen rounder by unanimous decision.

On August 3, 1915, Lewis took on former welterweight champion Mike Glover in Boston. His son Morton described, "[Lewis] was scoring points with a swift left-hook to the body, a shift of weight, and the same fist hooked upwards to the jaw. The press christened this the 'loop-the-loop- punch." (Lewis, pg. 74)

Morton argues that this was later to be known as the bolo punch, which Macario Flores or middleweight world champion Ceferino Garcia- both Filipino fighters - are usually given credit for inventing. Flores, the older of the two, didn't start his career until 1918. Welterweight world champion Kid Gavilan also used the punch with frequency. "Sugar" Ray Leonard either threw or faked a bolo punch in key moments of his big fights.

But, perhaps, the bolo punch, if not the name, was another Ted "Kid " Lewis innovation.

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