posted on Apr, 7 2003 @ 06:26 PM
USA TODAY - April 7, 2003
Heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis will fight June 21, more than a year after his last bout, a legacy-sealing knockout of Mike Tyson.
Standing across the ring from Lewis for his encore probably will be Kirk Johnson (34-1-1, 25 KOs), with whom Lewis' representatives were close to
finalizing a deal after negotiating through the weekend.
''We are very, very close,'' Johnson co-manager Ken Lilien said Sunday. ''We've cleared the biggest hurdle, the purse. I'm very confident the deal
will get done.''
Johnson's package would be worth about $1.4 million. Still to be ironed out are details concerning a rematch clause and logistics.
Lewis attorney Judd Burstein said, ''There's no deal done yet, but I think we're close.''
''The main stuff we're working on is non-purse related,'' said Dino Duva, Johnson's promoter. ''We're really excited about this opportunity for Kirk
The money isn't what Johnson and Duva hoped it would be, but they're happy for an opportunity.
''The fact is it's a shot at 'the man,' '' Duva said. ''And the man in boxing can call his shots. Lennox doesn't have to fight Kirk, so you have to
seize your opportunity, even if it means taking less than you think you're worth. We're seizing our opportunity.''
Johnson was a huge disappointment in his last big opportunity. He was disqualified vs. then-titlist John Ruiz last summer for low blows. Johnson has
won twice since, including a knockout of Lou Savarese last month.
''In a little less than a year it's amazing to get back as fast as we did,'' Lilien said. ''I feel like we learned a lot from the Ruiz experience.
Kirk is ready for Lennox. He will fight Lennox Lewis anywhere they put up the boxing ring.''
However, Johnson doesn't have the fight locked up just yet. Vitali Klitschko remains a possible opponent, although the sides are about $1 million
''We also have an offer out to Vitali Klitschko,'' Burstein said. ''It's a very credible offer which takes into account his belief that he's the
mandatory, which is a position that we don't agree with and are prepared to litigate against. But to resolve everything, we've made a very generous
The WBC, whose title Lewis holds, said he must face Klitschko if he doesn't fight Tyson next. Lewis has until April 15 to respond.
According to the New York Daily News, Klitschko attended Friday's Golden Gloves finals, where Lewis representatives served Klitschko legal papers
seeking to remove him as the WBC top contender. Burstein said whomever Lewis fights, he expects to have a deal in place this week.
The opponent won't be Tyson, though he and Lewis have a contract for a rematch of their June 8 bout. Tyson says he isn't ready after working just 49
seconds to knock out Cliff Etienne in February. But for $7.5 million, Tyson probably will fight on the June 21 HBO PPV undercard, perhaps vs. faded
Oleg Maskaev, to tune up for a rematch.
Trainer Emanuel Steward said he and Lewis discussed opponents last week. ''I told him I don't think it makes much difference because he beats both of
them.'' Steward said Lewis will open training camp April 15 at his traditional site in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.