Fighting the Demons is a pretty sad book. Like many Australians, I remember when Lester Ellis became the IBF Lightweight Champion after defeating Korean, Hwan-Kil Yuh in 1985. It was televised in rural Australia, and was a major event. For Ellis, it was a meteoric rise, and the press dubbed him the ‘Master Blaster’. And as viewers, and as fans, we loved him. Australia is sports mad – particularly in Melbourne, and a sporting champion, in any discipline is treated to levels of adulation befitting a rockstar. And that was a part of the problem. Ellis was only 19 years old, and possibly not ready for all the adulation – and the ‘hangers on’ who came with the championship belt.
This book charts Ellis’ rise and his subsequent fall from grace. Although initially his fall, wasn’t that far – it was simply after he lost a title defence against fellow Australian Barry Michael, the public lost interest – despite the fact that he still had plenty of good fights (and fighting years) in front of him. It also details his battles with alcoholism. It is told in a frank, forthright style which at times can be hard to read. By that I mean, this is not a black-slapping tail of how great it is to be a world champion – or even to convey what a ‘great’ bloke he is. This story is warts and all. And at times, Ellis comes off pretty bitter, and defensive. But balancing that, he presents evidence to show how he became that way.
This book is not for everyone, and I would suggest it would be of little interest to international readers. But if you’re Australian and grew up watching the Master Blaster on television, this is a fascinating, but ultimately sad tale – although I am sure, Ellis isn’t after pity either. He is just laying it all out – take it or leave it – and I guess there’s a certain dignity in that.
Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.