The Top 5 Lennox Lewis Victories
By Sina Latif
Lennox Lewis is the most accomplished heavyweight of an era in heavyweight boxing which is second only to the glorious 1970’s. He proved to be the real class act of the 90’s and won an impressive 15 title bouts during a superb career.
He was a 1988 Olympic gold medallist who then developed during his professional career into a giant heavyweight who fought with finesse. The late legendary trainer Emanuel Steward put the finishing touches on Lewis as a heavyweight and helped him to become a formidable fighter who possessed the skills along with the physical attributes to fit into any era and hold his own against any heavyweight in history.
Standing at 6’5 with an 84-inch reach, Lewis had a considerable size advantage over many opponents, but also had the skills to back up the size.
Lewis could nullify the strengths of his opponents, whilst staying consistent with his elite jab, and could always make the necessary adjustments, switching from a calculated, thinking fighter to an aggressive, physical fighter when deemed appropriate with his devastatingly fluid combinations.
Lewis broke the American stranglehold on the heavyweight division and made the Americans respect British heavyweights again. He became the first Brit to become champion since Bob Fitzsimmons 102 years prior.
Lewis is the last man to be undisputed king of the blue-ribbon division, running through a heavyweight landscape filled with quality opposition, beating every available contender. Very few fighters hang up their gloves at the right time. Lewis ended his career at the right time whilst sitting on his throne as the greatest heavyweight of his generation.
The man nicknamed “The Lion” is one of the greatest heavyweights to ever step through the ropes, and so we speak here about the five greatest triumphs that show the greatness of Lewis.
5) Donovan “Razor” Ruddock KO2, October 31, 1992
Halloween night in 1992 marked the start of a new era in heavyweight boxing and the real commencement of Lewis’ reign as a leading heavyweight.
Entering the fight, Lewis was the underdog despite being British, Commonwealth and European champion. Donovan “Razor” Ruddock had brutally knocked out the highly regarded Michael Dokes and really took the fight to Mike Tyson twice in two tough wars. He was ranked No.1 by the WBC, being viewed by many as the cream of the crop in the blue-ribbon division.
The experience was with Ruddock, but Lewis was progressing well, and the No.2 ranked WBC contender had home advantage at Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre in London.
The fight billed as “The Fight for the Right” was finished in 2 rounds. With three knockdowns, Lewis obliterated a man who entered the fight as the favourite and was viewed as such a dangerous opponent having shared 19 rounds with ‘Iron Mike’ over two fights.
With this demolition job, Lewis had put himself on the map and cemented his standing amongst the heavyweights. Although not officially a title fight, it essentially turned out to be one for the soon-to-be-vacated and thrown in the trash by Riddick Bowe, WBC belt.
4) Hasim Rahman II KO4, November 17, 2001
In their first meeting in South Africa seven months earlier, Hasim Rahman had knocked out an under-prepared Lewis in the fifth round with a right hand that produced one of the biggest upsets in the history of heavyweight boxing.
Due to a rematch clause Lewis had installed in the contract for the first fight, Lewis was able to get Rahman in the ring again after a court ruling.
Tensions were high in the build-up and the world was waiting for this anticipated rematch.
Once both men entered the ring at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Lewis showed exactly why he was a real champion. He dominated the first three rounds with great ring generalship, circling away to his right away from Rahman’s right hand, staying busy with a stiff, sharp left jab. Then in the fourth round Lewis connected with a crisp one-two, a nice right hand that laid Rahman flat on his back, gazing at the ceiling. Rahman got back to his feet, but then went stumbling back to the canvas and was counted out.
Lewis put on one of his finest performances with a spectacular knockout, the 2001 knockout of the year, to become only the third heavyweight in history to win his titles back in an immediate rematch, after Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali.
3) Ray Mercer SD, May 10, 1996
In the early to mid 90’s, “Merciless” Ray Mercer certainly lived up to his nickname. He was a brawler, durable with one of the greatest chins in heavyweight history and possessed fight-ending power. Even with the brilliant standards of 90’s heavyweight boxing, with future greats plying their trade, absolutely nobody would have an easy outing against Mercer. Lewis found out the hard way.
This was a battle between the 1988 Seoul Olympics gold medallists, Lewis the super heavyweight champion and Mercer the heavyweight champion.
This was a make or break fight for Lewis.
Lewis had suffered his first upset loss to Oliver McCall two years earlier. Mercer had three prior losses, including in his previous fight one year before to Evander Holyfield. Both men knew the gut-wrenching feeling that comes with losing and the mettle both men displayed proved neither wanted to feel that again.
Both former champions, contenders at this point, were also aware that if they wanted to fulfil their dreams of sitting at the throne again, failure was not an option.
This turned out to be a war. Mercer was not a heavyweight who had any regard for finesse and displaying the sweet science. This was a fight in which Lewis had to fight. Boxing would not be enough. He would have to show grit.
Both men stood in front of each other and banged away. This was the fight in Lewis’ career when he had a real gut check, and proved to everybody else and most importantly to himself that if he is ever in a tough fight, he will have the capability to dig deep and pull through.
After this bruising encounter, Lewis proved that he was for real and ready to regain the world title that was rightfully his.
2) Vitali Klitschko TKO6, June 21, 2003
After Lewis’ original opponent, Kirk Johnson, pulled out two weeks prior with an injury, Vitali Klitschko agreed to fight Lewis on 12 days notice.
Klitschko was the WBC’s No.1 rated contender getting a shot at such short notice. A man with a record of 32-1 with 31 KO’s. The action that unravelled cemented Lewis’ championship heart and grit in what turned out to be his last professional fight.
Any man short of a real, true champion, who has already reached the pinnacle of the sport, would not take such a fight at short notice against a young challenger that has been eyeing the champion for years. Any fighter short of a true champ certainly would not prevail in such a fight.
After the first two rounds in which Klitschko had great success with big right hands, Lewis followed his legendary Kronk trainer Emanuel Steward’s advice to take the fight to the aggressive Ukrainian, immediately coming out in the third round to land a big right to open a terrible gash over Klitschko’s left eye, which turned out to be a fight-changer.
Lewis’ ability to follow his experienced trainers’ advice to a tee throughout his career must be applauded, and this was a great example.
Lewis had already proved before in his career that he could go to the trenches if needs be and made this an ‘alley-way fight’, which Klitschko also showed the capability to handle, never more-so than when he took a hellacious uppercut in the sixth and final round, before the ringside doctor advised the referee to stop the fight after Klitschko’s cut had become a blood-bath.
Klitschko displayed grit and courage in abundance, but so did Lewis in matching his determined opponent.
A clearly out-of-shape Lewis, weighing his heaviest ever, showed ring craft and experience to pull through in an almighty challenge that proved to be a passing of the torch fight in 2003.
1) Evander Holyfield UD, November 13, 1999
The greatest victory of Lewis’ career has to be when he finally achieved greatness in becoming the first undisputed champion from the UK in the 20th century.
After their first fight eight months earlier, which ended in a draw, one of the most disputed decisions in boxing history, Lewis avenged what many believed to be a robbery by finally hearing the following words at the conclusion of the rematch: “And the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world…”
Words that have not been repeated again for over 20 years.
With this 12-round unanimous decision over an improved Holyfield, in a fight in which Lewis had to show great durability to take Holyfield’s big left hooks and fire back under pressure, Lewis established his greatness against the other leading great heavyweight of his era, the man he has stated was the toughest opponent of his career.
“The Lion” had been seeking an elusive career-defining superfight for years and once it finally arrived, it provided him with the opportunity to win all the marbles and cement his name in the history books as the greatest heavyweight of his generation.