THOR blimey! Look who Sunderland’s Olympic medal-winner Tony Jeffries is teaching to pack a punch.
Jaffa’s latest recruit at his LA gym is none other than Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth, famous for roles in Thor, The Avengers, Star Trek and Snow White and The Huntsman.
Tony has been sparring with the Australian-born actor to prepare him for filming director Michael Mann’s new thriller, in Hong Kong.
Box ’n’ Burn, which Tony opened after a hand injury meant he could no longer box professionally, has gone from strength to strength since he opened it with business partner Kevan Watson in December.
The 28-year-old told the Echo: “Chris came into the gym after googling boxing gyms in LA.
“I signed him up and didn’t even realise who he was, then I went outside and there were all these paparazzi outside trying to get pictures of him.
“He’s a bit of a beast and actually needed to lose size in his arms for his new role.
“He’s super-fit and super-talented. I didn’t realise just how hard actors work, and how dedicated they are, until I met him.”
Michael Mann, whose films include Heat, The Insider, Collateral and Ali, also hired Tony’s gym to practise the stunts for his forthcoming film.
The former boxer’s no-frills approach to teaching the sport’s techniques has also attracted Asian-American superstar LeeHom Wang, who is a big name in the Far East as a singer-songwriter, record producer, actor and film director.
He performed at the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony in the year that Tony, from Silksworth, won his Bronze boxing medal. Mixed martial arts fighters Tom Watson and Brendan Schaub also train with the former Farringdon School pupil at his gym in LA’s Santa Monica area.
It’s been hailed as the fastest growing gym in LA and has given Tony a new focus after injury forced him to give up boxing professionally.
Not only has he thrown himself into his new business, Tony has also filmed TV commercials for Levi’s (which will be broadcast in the UK later in the year), Gillette and Toyota who liked his rough-and -ready boxer’s appearance, as opposed to the more preened LA look.
“I never expected any of this,” said Tony, who is married to nurse Sarah.
“When I first came to America it was to train and I was expecting to fight, but then my injury became too bad to continue. I work really hard at the gym and regularly put in 16-hour days, but my life is so easy now compared to how it was when I was training and dieting for fights.
“I haven’t been back to Sunderland in a year now and I think the hardest part is not seeing my friends and family, my nieces and nephew.”
He added: “I’m dedicated to this gym now.
“Ian Campbell from Lonsdale was a major part in helping us set up the gym, with their continued support of sponsoring me after I retired.”