Lennox Lewis’ Five Greatest Wins
By Henry Walter
Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis was in the news again this week after admitting that he would “be open” to facing former opponent Mike Tyson in a rematch.
Lewis, 55, recently interacted with responses to a Twitter poll which saw 66% of the public vote that they believed a prime Tyson would have beaten him at his best. It seems his competitive juices may be bubbling once again.
A comeback at 55 would be a ridiculous proposition for the man who remains one of the few champions to walk away both at the top and with his health intact. Lewis already has a quite brilliant legacy and has absolutely nothing left to prove. Most knowledgeable boxing fans and critics rate him as one of the very best heavyweights ever. Below I have listed his five greatest wins.
5: Donovan “Razor” Ruddock
In 1992, Donovan “Razor” Ruddock was considered one of the best heavyweights in the world. Ruddock held wins over James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Michael Dokes and Mike Weaver.
In 1991 he had faced Tyson, having won his last ten fights by knockout. He had Tyson in trouble but was controversially stopped whilst still on his feet, with most in attendance feeling that the stoppage was premature. The inevitable rematch saw him go the distance whilst giving Tyson plenty to think about.
Ruddock had rebounded from the Tyson defeats with career best wins over Greg Page and the then undefeated Phil Jackson. He went into the fight with Lewis as the favourite and was expected to face Riddick Bowe for the championship after beating Lewis.
Lewis showcased his world class boxing skills and elite level power to floor Ruddock in the first round before finishing him in the second. Bowe then reneged on his promise to face the Lewis-Ruddock winner and Lewis was crowned champion for the first time with his breakout career performance.
4: “Iron” Mike Tyson
Boxing critics love to remind fans that Mike Tyson was far from his best by the time Lewis defeated him in eight one-sided rounds in 2002. Yet Tyson, whilst unarguably faded at 35, was still a formidable force.
Tyson entered the Lewis fight off the back of four wins, all by knockout (including a stunning 38 second knockout of former George Foreman rival Lou Savarese), and two no contests. Lewis boxed beautifully in Memphis to wear Tyson down and take him out with seeming ease, in a manner he had never been beaten in before.
In his first fight following the Lewis defeat, one year later, Tyson knocked out fringe contender Clifford Etienne in just 49 seconds.
3: Hasim Rahman 2
Hasim Rahman had famously upset the odds to knockout Lewis seven months earlier in South Africa to take the world title. Rahman was in the best form of his career having recently beaten future champion (future Klitschko conqueror) Corrie Sanders by knockout.
Lewis was adamant that he had underestimated Rahman and that he was a far superior fighter. He had to force Rahman to face him again by going through the courts to enforce his rematch clause.
Lewis was a very different animal in the rematch. Lighter and fitter he boxed like a 245-pound version of Muhammad Ali, dancing round Rahman, keeping him honest with a spearing jab before knocking him out with one of the best right hands ever seen in heavyweight history.
Post Lewis, Rahman went straight into another hard fight, facing former champion Evander Holyfield and coming up short on a technical decision after a headbutt left him unable to see the finish. A draw with heavyweight danger man David Tua was then followed by a close loss to John Ruiz and a six fight win streak that earned him a shot at the WBC title.
2: Vitali Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko was something of an unknown amongst casual boxing fans when he faced Lewis in 2003. Lewis was one of the faces of the sport, the superstar who had just beaten Tyson in one of the highest grossing fights in history.
Klitschko on the other hand was merely seen as the less talented older brother of former WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Klitschko, at a reported 6 feet 7 inches in height, had similar dimensions to his brother but was seen as stiffer and more robotic. His best win had been taking the unbeaten scalp of talented German fighter Timo Hoffmann to capture the European title in 2000. He was not expected to cause Lewis too many problems when they met in Los Angeles in 2003.
Lewis came in at his career heaviest weight and seemed extremely complacent when Klitschko came in as a late replacement for Kirk Johnson.
The fight was brutal with fierce exchanges between the two. Klitschko won the early rounds before Lewis ruthlessly forced his way back in.
After six rounds of war both men looked exhausted and Klitschko was pulled out by the doctor as his eye was cut to such an extent that it threatened his future vision, he later required over sixty stitches to close the injury.
Lewis was booed by the crowd, who were thirsty for more action and angry that Klitschko had been pulled out whilst still leading on points but had forever proved his heart.
Klitschko would never see defeat again for the rest of his boxing career. Once Lewis retired, he embarked on a run of thirteen straight wins, with ten coming by knockout, all but one at championship level. He captured the WBC Championship from his brother’s conqueror Corrie Sanders and made eleven successful title defences before retiring as champion in 2012.
1: Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield 2
In 1999 Lewis finally landed the fight he’d been craving with Evander Holyfield for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
Holyfield was 37 but arguably in the best form of his career. He went into the Lewis fight on the back of a tough win over talented contender Vaughn Bean, having avenged his loss to former two-weight champion Michael Moorer and posted his career best wins over Mike Tyson in his preceding fights.
Lewis boxed superbly, executing a clever, tactical game plan to seemingly beat the notoriously tough Holyfield on points. The judges disagreed and controversially called the fight a draw (the decision was later investigated by the FBI).
The rematch was arranged for the same year and Holyfield fought a much better fight. Lewis ultimately proved superior once again however, beating Holyfield with an educated jab and superb, flowing combinations to win one of the defining fights of the era and establish himself as the best of the generation.
Holyfield rebounded to win back the WBA title that had been stripped from Lewis in his very next fight vs fellow American John Ruiz. He went on to narrowly lose to seven-foot Russian giant Nikolai Valuev for the WBA title (a bout most in the boxing fraternity thought he’d won) nine years later.
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