LENNOX LEWIS RETIRES!
06.02.04 - By Gavin Macleod: Just moments ago the world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis announced that he is to retire from the sport. Lewis had this to say at today’s press conference:
Article posted on 06.02.2004
“This is a special day of my life. I confirm that on June 21, 2003 I had my last fight as a professional boxer. It was a great honour to be world champion and the best boxer of the last decade. I want to thank the fans – thank you.
"It is not easy being champion. It is hard to achieve and even harder staying at the top. You have to give 110% and I’ve done that. I respect boxing and I respect it so much that I know it is time for the next generation to take over and become champion. The challenge is there for them to become.
"This (retiring as champ) puts me in the same line as Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano who retired as champion and didn’t come back.
"This is a moment to reflect and thank everyone who helped me, pushed me and supported me. I want to thank my mother (Violet) first. It so important to have your family supporting you – I love you mum. Emanuel Steward, my trainer, I thank him so much for having so much confidence in me. Sometimes I didn’t have that confidence and he was there to be the backboned of my team. Harold 'the Shadow' Knight was the left hand to Manny’s right, he picked up the little things that I was doing wrong and I thank him.”
The now former champion went on to include all members of Team Lewis that had helped him through the years.
This announcement ends the reign of one of the greatest and most successful heavyweight champions of all time and certainly the most dominant heavyweight of the past decade. It is also a decision that can be fully understood as Lewis has proven himself on countless occasions and can go into his retirement knowing that he has accomplished great things in a tremendous career that has spanned fifteen years.
As an amateur Lewis was a stand out at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where he won the Super-heavyweight Gold medal by stopping future Heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe in two rounds. As a professional he was even more outstanding.
After turning pro in 1989, Lewis raced to the European heavyweight title in only his 14th professional contest, without even contesting the British title first. His first defence of his title however, was for both titles, as he took on the Lonsdale belt holder Gary Mason in March of 1991 winning via seventh round TKO.
Lennox then continued his meteoric rise towards a world title shot before finally achieving his goal by facing Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock in October of 1992. This fight was set to be an eliminator for Riddick Bowe’s WBC title, but after Lewis disposed of Ruddock in two rounds, Bowe disposed of his title by placing it in a trash can rather than face Lewis.
As a direct result of Bowe’s actions, Lewis was awarded the WBC belt and became a world champion for the first time. Lewis defended the title three times, including one fight against perennial world title contender and fans favourite Frank Bruno, before suffering a shock 2nd round knockout at the hands on Oliver McCall in September 94.
Lewis got straight back on his horse however, and began his determined gallop towards regaining the title he had held with such pride. Along the way he beat established names like Ray Mercer and Tommy Morrison before get his long awaited rematch with McCall in February 97.
In what was possibly the strangest heavyweight fight in the history of the game, Lewis claimed a fifth round TKO as McCall simply refused to fight and circled the ring seemingly in the middle of a nervous breakdown. During round intervals, as Lewis rested in his corner, McCall would pace up and down the ropes sometimes in floods of tears. During the fifth round as Lewis looked like he had seen enough and went in to get McCall out of there, referee Mills Lane stepped in and stopped the contest. Lewis was back on top!
Four defences later and Lewis was in a position he had always dreamed of. He was lined up for a unification match with WBA and IBF belt holder, Evander Holyfield. This bout transpired in March of 99 and Lewis looked to have won convincingly before the judges, seemingly suffering from temporary blindness, revealed that the fight was a draw.
Eight months later and it was time to “do it again” as Don King proudly announced at the post fight press conference of the first fight. This time around there was to be no scandalous scoring as Lewis was awarded the decision that he failed to receive in the first fight and became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Britain’s first since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897.
Another three successful defences against top contenders came and passed with relative ease, before Lewis faced up to Hasim Rahman in Carnival City, South Africa in April of 2001. This was to be Lewis’s worst night as a professional as he entered the ring having not trained properly and looking like he had maybe taken Rahman for granted.
Hence, in round five with Lewis clowning around on the ropes and leaving himself wide open, Rahman unleashed a huge right hand that would have decapitated lesser men and Lewis was sent tumbling to the canvas as Rahman was lifted towards the Sky and celebrated as the new champion.
Again Lewis had to saddle up to ride back to the top of the mountain and he did it in sensational fashion. He gained an automatic rematch with Rahman in November of 2001 through a rematch clause in the contract of their first fight. This time it was different though. Lewis was determined not to make the same mistakes again and with the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth, got himself into great fighting shape. This resulted in one of his finest displays as he destroyed Rahman in four rounds and regained his titles to become the heavyweight champion of the world for a third time.
With his titles now back where they belonged, Lewis set about dispersing one of the black clouds that hovered over his championship reign and legacy of being one of the great heavyweights of modern times, Mike Tyson. This had been a fight the public had wanted for many years but now, in June 2002, they were finally going to get their wish.
Lewis was in the best condition of his career and set about giving Tyson a boxing lesson before drawing the curtain on the show in round eight when he sent Tyson crashing to the canvas where referee Eddie Cotton administered a ten count. This was, in this writer’s opinion, Lewis’ finest hour in a boxing ring and would have been the perfect time to retire. Lewis is like any other human however, and when the young pretenders to his throne came knocking he could not resist giving them their shot.
He was all set to face Canada’s Kirk Johnson in June 2003, but when Johnson injured himself in training he was left to face Vitali Klitschko. Klitschko had been preparing for a fight with Cedric Boswell, that was to take place on the undercard of the Lewis-Johnson fight, and as such he was in fantastic condition. The same could not be said of Lewis.
At the age of 37, the champion looked to have taken his training very lightly again and many felt he had only got himself into a shape that he felt could beat Kirk Johnson. This was proved correct during the first round of the fight as Klitschko, fighting in his prime and in perfect condition, was having success against a champion who looked a shadow of his former self.
The fight was a brutal and vicious slugfest, certainly not the type we had become accustomed to seeing the self proclaimed ‘pugilist specialist’ Lewis involved in. Klitschko took the first two rounds as Lewis was looking to load up on big right hands to try and dispose of his man, maybe feeling that he did not have the condition to do twelve hard rounds, but Lewis would soon turn the tables in round three.
Within moments of round three commencing, Lewis threw a straight right hand that caught the left eyebrow of his Ukrainian challenger, who was leaning backwards at the time. Such was the angle and force of the blow, it seemed to pull the skin and split it in the process. During the round the eye took more heavy shots and by the time the bell had sounded, the left eyebrow of Klitschko was a mess. It has split to such and extent that it seemed to leave a one-inch gash between the eyebrow and the eyelid that Klitschko’s corner struggled to control.
Rounds four and five went to the now bloody challenger as Lewis struggled to find his usual impressive form. He did have a better round in the sixth though as he bombed the challenger, repeatedly knocking his head back with big powerful right hands, including two very big right uppercuts.
Walking back to his corner Klitschko’s face was now a mask of blood. With three cuts around the left eye now and a laceration to the inside of his top lip he was not looking in great shape and the ringside physician ruled that the damage around his eye was severe enough to merit the contest being stopped in favour of Lewis.
Vitali may have been ahead on the judge’s scorecards 58-56 at the time of the stoppage but Lewis had just had a very commanding sixth round and there can be no complaints about the stoppage at all. The cut suffered in the third round is by far the most ugly injury I have seen any boxer suffer and when you talk about a fighters long term health, it is clear that continuing the fight with such eye damage could have resulted in very serious repercussions for Klitschko.With the nature of the fights conclusion there was immediate calls for a rematch, but one had to question Lewis’ motivation.
So it become apparent that we may have seen the last of Lennox Lewis, something that was confirmed a few hours ago at a packed press conference in the Grovsenor House Hotel in London’s Park Lane.
At 38 Lewis has left a tremendous career behind him and one that the new breed of heavyweights will struggle to match and one that may not be matched for some time to come.
Eastside boxing would like to wish Lennox Lewis a very healthy and happy retirement and thank him for all the fantastic moments he has provided us with throughout his career.
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