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The man woth the iron fist inside a golden glove.

Byline: By John Gibson

The ABA Championships are one of the most prestigious and enduring sporting events of this country's rich history.

Dating back through the mists of time to 1881, when upright gentlemen congregated in London and fought for honour not purse, they have survived two World Wars and a thousand skirmishes to abolish the noble art of self defence.

The glowing history of the ABAs is best served by glancing through its pantheon of champions ( men who have graduated to the professional ranks and ultimate glory, many as world title holders.

Allow me to sprinkle stardust with no apologies for the length of the roll of honour: Randolph Turpin; Dave Charnley; Henry Cooper; Howard Winstone; Walter McGowen; Terry Spinks; Alan Minter; Ken Buchanan; John H Stracey; John Conteh; Charlie Magri; Jim Watt; Terry Marsh; Chris Finnegan; Herol Graham; Nigel Benn; Frank Bruno; Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton.

For 115 years from a small beginning with titles at only four weights, a five shillings entry fee, and a silver cup worth five guineas, the ABA Championships have year by year extended the list of achievement by proud participants.

This 12 months that championship parade included a 20-year-old Geordie lad, a boxer with a double-barrelled name which allows him to stand out from the masses.

Jon-Lewis Dickinson achieved his dream 11 days ago by lifting the ABA cruiserweight crown, anointing him amateur champion of England when, at York Hall, Bethnal Green, he swept away the challenge of three-time finalist Mark Redhead.

It seems one day soon younger brother Travis will follow Jon-Lewis on to the ABA honours board.

Last Tuesday, with his brother ringside, 18-year-old Travis became Britain's under-19 champion by claiming the Boys Clubs title ( a massive stepping-stone to future success.

The fighting Dickinsons, from Edmondsley near Sacriston and who box out of the renowned Birtley club, are warriors indeed.

Yet outside of the roped square that is his business office the young man facing me is polite, articulate and devoid of any tell-tale signs of bruising conflict. He is also fiercely ambitious.

He said: "I have been obsessed with winning the ABAs and have thought of nothing else. Now I have made it I will sit down with my coach Ronnie Rowe in the New Year and decide where we go next.

"Travis joins the senior ranks next season and we both want to win an ABA title at the same time. That would be extra special.

"Apart from that I have to think about the Olympic Games in Beijing in two years' time and 2012 in London. I will only be 26 then and could easily be at my peak ( if I can keep my enthusiasm and drive going.

"However, long-term the ultimate dream is to turn professional and win big titles. Every boxer, I should think, has the same mindset. Winning the ABAs with Travis next year will do for starters."

To make the Olympics, Jon-Lewis will have to revert to heavyweight as the cruiser division unbelievably is not recognised at world level. As his 6ft 4in frame fills out the progression ought to be automatic anyway.

Dickinson reached the ABA finals as a heavyweight two years ago when there was no division between light heavy at 81kgs and heavy at 91kgs ( but his eventual return will see him as a fully-blown performer.

He said: "I am a natural at 86kgs right now ( I was too light two years back because a 10kgs gap is massive in terms of boxing.

"I will fill out naturally because I am still growing and that is where my future lies. I want a senior England vest and that will only come as a heavyweight."

Dickinson pitched himself into the deep-end as an 18-year-old when, in direct opposition to club policy, he went straight into the senior ABAs ( and straight through to the final.

However, a Scouser wielding a hammer was waiting for him at the end of the line.

Tony Bellew, a famed puncher who can smash holes in a steel plate, was his last opponent and blew Dickinson away in the second round.

Dickinson admitted: "I got a bit too excited and walked on to a left hook to the temple.

"I was five points up at the end of the first round but Bellew takes opponents out with one big shot and I caught it. I was out like a light.

"I can take a shot on the chin, I have taken big shots from known punchers before, but this one was perfect.

"I do not regret entering the ABAs at 18. I wanted the opportunity and knew I was good enough. I proved it ( I beat the 2003 champion Mick O'Connell in the semis and also defeated Tom Dallas who has made two super heavyweight finals since I met him.

"In my first fight after Bellew I faced the six-time Irish champion Alan Reynolds in his own backyard, won on points, and got the best boxer trophy. So I belonged in the big time."

Jon-Lewis is rightly proud of the fact he has only entered two ABAs ( 2004 and 2006 ( and made both finals, winning one.

He says as good champions do, with no hint of embarrassment, that "if I box right and keep my head I know I will beat anyone."

His path to current glory has proved that ( Mark Redhead was easily swept aside in London despite his huge experience.

Dickinson said: "I am extremely proud to have joined such a distinguished list of previous ABA title winners.

"Everyone who has been anyone in boxing is a former title holder and it makes you humble when you glance down their names."

Now Jon-Lewis and Travis are eyeing a joint assault on amateur boxing's blue riband event ( and who would dare say they will not make it?
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2006
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