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Nestled deep in the streets of Brompton, an inner western suburb of Adelaide lies a gymnasium more suited to the 19th century London town that to 21st century Adelaide suburbia. A 3rd generation boxing and fitness gym established way back in 1937, making it one of the oldest boxing gyms in Australia. Thomas James Smith or T.J. as he became affectionately known by the many lads he trained and helped raise was born in Tasmania in 1897. Orphaned at birth, he was in an orphanage until 13 years of age and then crossed over onto the mainland. Here he first worked as a drover, learnt to break in horses, nurse sick ones back to health and ultimately boxing. As a boxer he achieved an Australia wide acclaim as one of the last of the “Bare Knuckle” champions. In 1937 T.J. opened “The Premier Gymnasium” at Tenant Creek in the Northern Territory and became the first white man to teach boxing to aboriginal lads. In 1942 he moved to Adelaide, South Australia, where as well as training army and police cadets, he re-opened the Premier Gym in Victoria Street in the city. This would be his and the gyms home over the next 34 years, where he continued to not only teach the science of boxing, transforming keen athletes into competent boxers, but also wayward juveniles into responsible men.
In 1976 “The Thomas James Smith Premier Boxing Gym” as it was now known, relocated to its current location at number 35 West Street Brompton. Over 75 years old, it stands apart as the oldest and first boxing gym established in Australia.
It is a credit to T.J.’s teachings and the character Premier Gym helped to create and build, long after his passing in 1994 at the age of 97. His gym and legacy continues to thrive, run not only by the lads, now grown men that he trained, but also by the young men they’ve since trained. Further recognition of T.J.’s and Premier Gym’s contribution to their community come in the late 80’s when Tom was awarded “The Order of Australia” medal as part of the Queen’s honour