In my opinion, our sport provokes discussion like no other. Be it a discussion on the next up and coming fighter, to the current pound for pound champion or how modern fighters would have faired against champions of yesteryear.
Of course we will never be able to answer many of these questions, but one that is often debated in magazines, bars and in boxing clubs around the world is who was the greatest Heavyweight Champion of all time.
For me, positions 1 & 2 will most likely be the same as your own, and those two positions will forever be contested by Muhammad Ali (56-5) and Joe Louis (66-3). I will leave you to guess who I would rate first!
But then the debate opens up….who would then follow these two giants of the sport. Speak to any boxing fan and you will most likely hear the the following names……Rocky Marciano, Jack Johnston, Jack Dempsey, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschsko, Evander Holyfield.
My question is where does our own 3 time Heavyweight Champion of the World, Lennox Lewis rank in this mythical list?
Lennox’s early years have been well documented. Born in London, he moved to Canada to be with his mother in his early teens and thereafter boxed for Canada around the globe as an amateur. Wearing a vest, Lennox won a Junior World Title (1983) and later added Commonwealth Gold (1986) and Olympic Gold (1988). It is documented that Lennox ended his unpaid career with a record of 80-10 with 5 of those reverses being avenged.
Thereafter as a professional, Lennox secured British, Commonwealth and European honours, before moving on to the world stage. He secured the WBC, WBA, IBF, IBO, IBC and Lineal Heavyweight crowns in a career which spanned from 1989 – 2003, retiring with a slate of 41-2-1.
So lets look at the facts. Standing 6’5 tall and averaging around 240 in his career, Lennox was 15-2-1 (10 KOs) in World Title Fights and 14-2-1 (9 KOs) against current or former World Champions.
Across both codes Lennox defeated champions such as Riddick Bowe, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Shannon Briggs, Vitali Klitschko, Frans Botha, Razor Ruddock, Tommy Morrison, Ray Mercer, Jorge Luis Gonzalez, Oliver McCall, Frank Bruno, Hasim Rahman and Henry Akinwande. He also defeated some top class names such as Michael Grant, Anthony Golota, and David Tua during his reign.
Following his shock defeat in two rounds to Oliver McCall, Lennox teamed up with the late, great Manny Steward to became one of the most dominant champions of the modern era. It was the progress under Manny which, for me, cements his place in the top 5 list of all time. Yes there was the blip again Hasim Rahman in South Africa, but under Manny, Lennox become a master of the ring with exceptional timing. He demonstrated, an amazing ability to read distance and control the pace of a fight as well as having genuine one punch knockout power.
His jab, in my opinion, is second only to Larry Holmes, and his right hand would have taken out anyone he hit cleanly. While at times he could appear lazy, almost methodical in approach with flat footwork, he also had an sharp, tactical boxing brain and could fight on the inside and out. As he used to say himself he was a “pugilistic specialist”.
With a solid chin, despite his two inside the distance losses, Lennox is the greatest Heavyweight Champion since Ali.
How would he have faired against the greats? We will never know. I can make a case for him winning against almost all, as lets not forget, Lennox had a knack for being able to nullify even the most dangerous of fighters.
So where does Lennox rank in the greatest Heavyweight list? Personally, I would have him in at number 5 (just) pipping the likes of Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. Styles make fights, size makes a difference and skill and speed are key. Lennox had all of these and as such for me he just makes it into the top 5.
The Sweet Scientist.