Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fearless Lennox Lewis: Best British Heavyweight or Best Brit Ever?

British-born Lewis may be the best Brit or Canadian Heavyweight ever

The recent announcement of Lennox Lewis induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY--with induction ceremonies detail HERE was a mere formality to boxing fans. That Lewis has resisted temptation to return to the squared circle is the real milestone.

Lewis, a native of London, England, who learned how to box in Ontario, Canada, has always had strong roots in boxing. He was an amateur standout who sparred with a young Brooklyn phenom, Mike Tyson, and won Olympic gold when he TKO'd future undisputed heavyweight champion, Riddick Bowe. Lewis missed his chance at Olympic gold the first time when he was beaten by Tyson KO victim Tyrell Biggs, but as Lewis showed, he was dangerous the second time around.

After turning pro, Lewis returned to his British roots and the publicity it could bring him. But it was not until 1992, and his demonstrative KO of tough Tyson opponent, Donovan "Razor" Ruddock that people really began to take notice.

Lewis was there to challenge former KO victim Bowe after the latter won a career-defining fight against Evander Holyfield.

Why didn't Bowe defend his honor and clear the slate?

He challenged Bowe, but had to settle for the WBC strap which Bowe threw in the trash bin, then lost the rematch to Holyfield. Lewis would have to wait for more than a decade before his dream fights came to fruition.

In the meantime, between his dates with post-destiny, he lost the strap by 1-punch KO to former Tyson sparring partner, Oliver McCall. He would regain the title by stopping an emotion train wreck in McCall nearly 3 years later. In between that rebuilding stage he also fought Tommy Morrison, a few months before Morrison stated he had the HIV virus. How's that for fearless?

But if there was one fight that Lewis will always have, it was his 1996 war with Ray Mercer. It was a back and forth war in which Lewis showed his mettle and never backed down. He won a razor-thin decision and though disputed, it was not a robbery. This may have been the fight that proved to Lewis he could face his conqueror and beat him, which he did with a little help from McCall's in-ring nervous breakdown.

Lewis' reign seemed assured after beating Andrew Golota, Zeljko Mavrovic, and a past his best Holyfield in his 2nd fight in 1999 after being robbed a victory the 1st time by a dubious draw.

The road to Canastota seemed rosy with the only thorn being that flash KO loss to McCall in 1994. And with that, the stage was set for an upset ala Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman in 1974, in Zaire.

Lewis seemed a bit overconfident against Hasim Rahman, who had already suffered two KO losses. And while Rahman kept his eye on the prize, Lewis was filming a movie after having conquered all the top heavyweights of the day decisively. When he finally arrived to South Africa, Rahman had stolen the thunder from Lewis and delivered a laser-guided right hand to the point of Lewis chin, where it reads, simply, KO. Lewis would jump right back in the saddle and deliver a 1-punch revenge KO to Rahman, a Hall of Fame KO, followed by the biggest-selling fight of the time, a kayo win against faded legend, Tyson.

Lewis ended his career with a TKO win against current heavyweight title holder, Vitali "The Better" Klitschko.

In the end, Lewis' resume is truly an outstanding one, even if some of his fights were not so. Lewis never showed fear of facing any opponent. He actually always went after the top fighters in the division year after year. He even left England to make the fights happen long before the Hatton's and Calzaghe's of the U.K.

Unfortunately for Lewis, he did not have the fan base of the aforementioned fighters. he came at a time when the division was red-hot but never could get the dream matches. he beat a country's hero in Frank Bruno and was not like too much at home, where ever that was. He was ducked by Bowe and Tyson when it would have counted most. And he was on the comeback trail when Hoyfield was finishing his best work.

And lastly there was his style and personality. He wore an air of arrogance and confidence in his manner of speech and his swagger into the ring, though he always seemed very fan friendly. He had a cold stare for his opponent and a devastating right hand to go with it. If he knew he could put you away he would; if not, he'd be content to jab and grab his way to victory and not risk injury.

But the bottom line is that Lewis never ducked anyone, beat the top fighters (both in the alphabet ratings and The Ring's ratings), avenged both his defeats, never disrespect to a fellow fighter after the fight, and finally made clear which country he represented. He was mainstream without going all the way. Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe cannot say the same for their success in both the states and abroad ala Lewis. All in all, Lewis' legacy is secured and his plaque is well earned. Hang it high and proud, as fans from all sides will agree.

This video probably best illustrates Lewis the person and the fighter

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