ESB Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2010
Re: Trevor King... Oz Boxing's Greatest Success Story
Never lost his touch....
For many, boxing is a violent blood sport, but Trevor King insists it is very much a gentleman’s game.
“Boxers aren’t aggressive. Why would they be?” he said. “They get all their aggression out in the ring. They don’t have to prove anything.”
Nonetheless, the 79-year-old from St Ives once knocked a repo man out cold.
It was 1984 and King was helping a family having trouble making mortgage repayments.
“This fellow was doing it tough and his family was just trying to eat so I started taking over food every week,” King said.
“But while I was putting food in the fridge, these repo guys built like front row forwards turned up, crashing in without even knocking.
“When the wife inadvertently got between her husband and one of the men, he pushed her away, causing her to fall over and when her husband stepped in the repo man threw a punch.”
So did King.
“I gave him a good whack on the chops but he must have had a glass jaw because he was out cold for quite a while,” he said. “But I gave him a cup of tea when he woke up and I told him to be on good behaviour.
“Nobody ever picks me as a boxer and I don’t mind that at all.”
King was one of Australia’s greatest featherweight fighters although he never won a world title nor an Australian crown. But during a 64-fight career he was never knocked out either and suffered only one loss.
While he has faced some of the world’s greatest fighters, some of his greatest battles have been fought closer to home. Polio, hepatitis, car and motorbike accidents have all blighted his career,
“You have to set yourself goals and ambitions otherwise people do it for you,” he said. “If you look at a situation squarely and face up to it, you can nut it out. And you should never, never say ‘can’t’.”
It was that determination which led him to found the Westside Mission drug and alcohol clinic in Ebenezer 25 years ago. Born in Mount View near Cessnock, King was the youngest of 13 children, including 10 half-siblings. At age eight, polio and rheumatic fever crippled him, restricting him to an iron lung for more than a year.
“Both my brother Leo and a few of my half-brothers were boxers and I remember hearing one of them say to the other that Leo was the family’s last chance for a title,” he said. “They had discounted me and I made up my mind then and there that that’s what I would do.”
Despite being unable to walk, when his mother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he told her a boxer.
“She said ‘No you don’t, you want to be a champion’. That always stayed with me,” King said. “I’ll never forget it.”
Before she died, his mother left instructions that 10-year-old Trevor should be taken to the local gym of boxing trainer Taff Thomas, who had the reputation of having “healing hands” as well as a reputation as a fearsome opponent.
“My brothers used to take me in, put me on Taff’s rubbing table and then go off and have a drink,” he said. “Then one day Taff said to me that if he could find one boy who would do exactly what he wanted, he could make him into a champion. I said I would and I did.”
He learnt to box, first one-handed from a specially-designed tripod stool then, once he reached 15, on the professional circuit.
“It actually worked well because it lulled opponents into a false sense of security when my foot movements were slow,” he said.
He went on to lose only one fight, to Swiss boxer Sigi Tennenbaum in 1952, before defeating Tennenbaum later that year. The following year, he faced champion Aboriginal boxer Elly Bennett in a non-title bout. “He was ranked the hardest puncher in the world but he was a lovely person,” King said.
Bennett was ranked number one in the world and his defeat meant King was offered a world title fight. But two weeks before he was due in the ring, he was hit by a car while on his motorcycle, landing him in St Joseph’s hospital for 11 months. He was told he would never walk again.
“But I’d already been told that, so I ignored them,” he said. When the wound turned gangrenous, doctors told him they wanted to amputate but he refused.
“When they told me that, I said to my brother, ‘go down to Mick Simmonds (sports store) and get me a good pair of boxing boots’,” he said. “He told me I was mad, that they were thinking of taking my leg off, and he came back with rubbish because he said I wouldn’t be wearing them anyway.”
Six years and seven months later, wearing those same boots, King beat New Zealand lightweight Mick Corliss, but the drama wasn’t over. Soon after, a hepatitis diagnosis took him out of the ring for a year, then, just as he was about to travel to England to fight in the Empire Boxing Championships, he was hit by a car while out training.
“I woke up in Bowen hospital and I was convinced I was still in St Joseph’s,” he said. Unable to remember anything from the previous six years, his memory loss was so severe that his friends would visit him with a pregnant girl in tow as a joke to try and convince him the baby was his.
Unable to fight because of the head injuries sustained in the accident, he studied psychology, philosophy and theology, then trained as a minister, first with the Salvation Army and then with the Methodist Church.
In 1972, convinced he was “better off running his own show”, he started the Caring and Sharing Mission in Maroubra.
“Of my seven half-brothers, five were alcoholics and so were my father and brother and most of my uncles and cousins,” he said. “I missed that gene, and for that I’m very fortunate.”
He changed the name to Westside Mission in 1984, moved it to Ebenezer on the Hawkesbury River and has been involved ever since. In 2004 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to people with drug and alcohol dependencies.
“I’m the luckiest man alive,” he said. “My brother once told me that with missing out on a world title, an Empire title and an Australian title, I was the unluckiest man in the world. I said to him ‘How can you say that? I’m alive. You can’t beat that’.”