Famed Australian coach of many champions, Johnny Lewis, flew into Dubbo recently and there to greet him were two of the local legends of boxing, Tom Carney and Graham Wallace, as well as current champion Rob “Gummy” Toomey.
The three men reunited for a fund-raiser for Gummy’s wife Kara at which Johnny was guest speaker.
Johnny recalled the days when “Bomber” and the great Joey Donovan from the Kempsey area would catch the train to Sydney and stay at his home for their big fights.
“They were both champion blokes, those two. And champions in the ring, too,” Johnny recalled with a real touch of reverence.
Tom Carney earned the nick-name “Bomber” for his ability to land big punches.
In a stellar career through the late 1960s and ‘70s, Bomber became the first Dubbo boxer to represent Australia. In 1973 he was selected in the NSW team following success at the State Titles. He was crowned Australian champion the same year and toured New Zealand as a flyweight.
He was controversially left out of the 1972 Olympics despite beating the Australian champion at the selection trials in Perth.
At the same time Graham “Wallo” Wallace was making his name in the ring. He was named the NSW Novice in 1971 then held State titles from ‘72-’74.
“Wallo” won the Australian Golden Gloves in 1972 and fought for Australian titles in ‘73 and ‘74.
Under the superkeen eyes of coaches Col Kirkness and “Bucky” Tink, and alongside Dubbo’s only Olympian Brian Tink, Wallo and Bomber pounded the boxing bags and sparred in the ring at the (then) Police Boys Club.
“They were good times, you know. We had a lot of young boys coming through from an early age. Boxing was strong. It taught us all discipline and respect and we made many, many friends,” Wallo said.
“Bomber was the first to wear the green and gold and then Tinky went on to Commonwealth and Olympic Games, so Dubbo was recognised as one of the powerhouses of the sport in the country,” he told Dubbo Photo News.
Wallo mentioned Ron Soden and Max Low as other great champions of an earlier era and commented on former Australian Heavyweight Champion Eric Chamberlain who trained at the same gym.
“He was so relaxed. He just seemed to take it in his stride and then when the Championships came around, he got in there and showed everyone who was boss,” Wallo laughed.
While Bomber is no longer in good health, his friends keep close contact with wife Gae and the family. It was Wallo and Gummy who picked the mighty champion up from home so he could meet up with “Johnny” at the airport.
“Wallo” is still involved with the sport, assisting Gummy and Kara at their Pound for Pound Gym.
“It is something inside me that makes me want to pass on the many skills of the sport. Kids need a focus, and this is a good way for them to get fit, get rid of the frustrations of everyday life and maybe find a future. Not too many will make it to the top like Johnny’s best (proteges) like Jeff Fenech, Jeff Harding and Kostya Tszyu, but they will have learned there is a way to do things that hopefully set themselves up for life,” he said passionately.