LEGENDARY trainer Johnny Lewis says Bilal Akkawy has the fists to become the hardest hitter in Australian boxing history.
While Lewis has always rated Akkawy’s father Mick the hardest puncher he’s seen, he says it’s only a matter of time until Bilal takes over the crown.
“Some people are blessed with raw power and I think Bilal is going to be an even better puncher than his dad,” Lewis said.
“Some people are born fast, some strong, and I think while you can improve the power in your punches, power is something you’re born with,” Lewis said.
“It’s a gift from God and Bilal has certainly got that.”
Akkawy, 25, will take that talent to the world when he steps into the ring at New York’s Madison Square Garden against Victor Fonseca of Mexico next month.
His journey to the arena Lewis calls “the be all and end all of boxing” had its humble beginnings in the garage of his parents’ home in suburban Sydney.
His father Mick, who Lewis believed was “certain would become a world champion”, had his boxing career cut short after a car accident in 1991.
No longer able to fight, Mick turned his attention to training — with his son born into the game.
“Boxing chooses you, you don’t choose boxing,” the younger Akkawy said.
“Everyone tells me know about how tiny I was and how as a two-year old I would sit on the lounge in the garage and watch my dad train people.
“I’ve been around boxing for as long as I can remember. So it was only a matter of time before I started to participate in it and in the end I become a fighter.”
The Peakhurst local turned professional at 18, but he remembers how his initial career almost never got off the ground the first time he stepped in the ring a matter a weeks earlier.
“I had an exhibition at Cronulla Leagues against a fireman — it was fireys v police and I was represented the police,” he said.
“(My opponent) was tough. That was the first time in the ring, so I was extremely nervous. I remember in the dressing room I was struggling to stand up.
“My legs were heavy, they were numb and didn’t want to move.
“My dad had to grab me and pull me up, saying ‘You’re already here, you can’t pull out now.’”
Akkawy went on to beat his much older opponent — but it was another two years before the young pugilist could beat his own nerves.
“It got better with each fight and it wasn’t until my fifth or sixth fight until I got more comfortable.
“Eventually I overcame those nerves because I was so determined to make it as a boxer,” he said.
Akkawy has a growing reputation as one of Australia’s biggest pound-for-pound puncher and owns an impressive undefeated record of 18-0-1 (14 KOs).
But it was his win over former WBA world champion Giovanni De Carolis in Sydney in February that would change the course of his career.
Unbeknown to Akkawy, the victory caught the eye of Eddy Reynoso, the man credited behind the success of boxing legend Canelo Alvarez.
“I beat De Carolis and then I was having problems with a few injuries. I just fought this former world champ who is still in his prime and the reward is very little. It was getting to me.
“There’s no recognition. I felt like quitting,” he said.
“Then my friend called me to say you’re going to America to spar Canelo.”
This friend, who has also been a long-time anonymous financial supporter of Akkawy, had sent Reynoso videos of the Akkawy.
The seasoned Mexican trainer flew Akkawy to the US so he could spar with Canelo. Reynoso has now taken the Australian on as one of his proteges, with the intention of turning him into a world champion in the next 12 months. Watch this space.