One of Australia’s greatest boxers, Johnny Famechon, has died, aged 77.
Born Jean-Pierre Famechon in France, he emigrated with his family to Australia at the age of five.
The son of a French lightweight boxing champion and nephew of a French and European featherweight titleholder, Famechon followed in their footsteps, skipping amateur boxing to begin his professional career at the age of 16.
With a fighting style based on quick movement, smart boxing and solid defence, he was described as “the classiest boxer in Australia” by the media.
In a nine-year career, he would amass a record of 56 wins (20 by knockout), six draws and five losses.
Famechon beat Les Dunn in 1964 for the Victorian featherweight title. He went on to win the Australian title and later the Commonwealth title in 1967.
He fought Cuban boxer Jose Legra at the Albert Hall in London and won a tough points decision to become the undisputed world featherweight champion in 1969, holding the belt at the same time as fellow Australian Lionel Rose.
Famechon would successfully defend the title twice, against former world flyweight and bantamweight champion Fighting Harada of Japan, who Rose had beaten to win the latter crown.
The first fight was controversial as the referee first called the result a draw before changing it to a win for Famechon. He would win the rematch by knockout in early 1970 before retiring later that year after a loss to Mexican Vicente Saldivar.
His career made him a household name, and he was named Melbourne’s King of Moomba in 1970.
In 1991, he suffered life-changing injuries when hit by a car whilst jogging — before he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.
Former world boxing champion, Barry Michael, said Famechon overcame the odds to claim the world title in London.
“It was the universal world title then,” Michael said.
“To beat Jose Legra, Famo was a huge underdog and then he went and beat him convincingly.
“Then he went along and fought Fighting Harada and they had the draw in Sydney, which they later gave to Famo on a recount, then they fought again on Tokyo and he knocked Harada out [in the 14th round].”
Famechon was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
In 2018, a bronze statue of Famechon was unveiled in his hometown of Frankston in Victoria.
He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in this year’s Queens Birthday Honors for significant service to boxing at elite level.