Johnny Famechon fought during the golden period of Australian boxing and became Australia’s third world boxing champion. He was champion of the world at the same time as Lionel Rose, when boxing in Australia was enormously popular. Over his 20 year career he became known as a tough fighter, with a career record of 56 wins (20 by KO), 6 draws and 5 losses.
Born Jean-Pierre Famechon in France, he moved to Australia in 1950 aged 5. His father Andre, was a French lightweight champion and his Uncle Ray was French and European featherweight champion before fighting the great Willie Pep for the world title. Famechon enrolled at Ambrose Palmer’s gym in Melbourne and at 16 had his first professional fight.
His early career was distinctive in that he never boxed as an amateur. Under the tutelage of Ambrose Palmer throughout his career, he started in June 1961 with a three round draw. His first major win came in 1964 at the age of 19 when he beat Les Dunn for the Victorian featherweight title. He won the national title the same year, beating Ollie Taylor. Next step was the Australian title, which he defended three times. The progression continued with the Commonwealth featherweight title, defeating Scot Johnny O’Brien in 1967.
Now with a solid 58 fights under his belt, Palmer teamed ‘Fammo’ up with famed British promoters, Mike Barrett and Mickey Duff. A match was made against classy Cuban Jose Legra for the world featherweight title at Albert Hall in London on January 21, 1969. In a very tough encounter Famechon out pointed Legra to become the champion of the world.
Next, he defended his crown against former world flyweight and bantamweight king, the tough-as-nails Fighting Harada of Japan in July 1969 at Sydney Stadium, in which the referee Willie Pep initially declared the fight a draw, then controversially awarded it to Famechon. Any doubt was removed six months later however, when Famechon knocked Harada out in the 14th round, in a Tokyo rematch. Fammo called it a day upon returning to Australia in May 1970 after he surrendered the title to Mexican Vicente Saldivar in a close contest. The fast moving clever boxer never fought again.
In 1991, he was badly injured when hit by a car whilst jogging near Sydney’s Warwick Farm racecourse. He was in a coma for 10 days. Since then, Fammo has shown that he did not leave his fighting spirit in the ring. His sharp wit and ready smile inspire those around him, and not once has he claimed life has treated him badly.
He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles in 1997.