Gillingham referee Ian John-Lewis takes a big hit in Anthony Joshua’s professional debut fight
Ian John-Lewis takes charge of Anthony Joshua's debut fight against Emanuele Leo Picture: Lawrence Lustig
Olympic champion Anthony Joshua’s professional debut almost ended in disaster – after landing a punch on Gillingham referee Ian John-Lewis.
The super-heavyweight gold medallist knocked his opponent out just two minutes and 47 seconds into his debut bout at the 02 Arena on Saturday night – but only after almost taking the referee down first.
John-Lewis – a referee for 20 years – waded in to separate Joshua and Italian Emanuele Leo but the British star reacted by planting a punch on the man in the middle.
“It all happened in a split second and I was thinking, ‘he’s just hit me!’ said John-Lewis.
“I had never been punched before as a referee in all my years and I was proud of that.
“Anthony said ‘sorry ref’ and afterwards he explained that he thought the Italian was going to hit him, so he instinctively tried to get in there first.
“No disrespect to other referees but some would have gone down.
“I am a big strong guy and I can take a dig but that was no little cuff, it was bang on the button, flat in my face.”
Full story in Friday's Medway Messenger
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