posted on Jun, 24 2003 @ 08:28 PM
Evening Standard - London - June 23, 2003
THE worst performance of Lennox Lewis's career might earn the world heavyweight champion a part in the most lucrative match in boxing history.
Revealed today, that is the extraordinary twist to Lewis's controversial victory over Vitali Klitschko here.
Emanuel Steward, Lewis's trainer, admitted that the 37-year-old Londoner had never fought as badly, even though he claimed a technical knockout over a
badly cut challenger.
Klitschko sustained a slashed left eyelid in the third round and despite protests from the giant Ukrainian, the fight was stopped on the orders of the
chief ringside doctor at the end of the sixth.
At that point, the 6ft 8ins Klitschko was leading 58-56 on all three judges' scorecards, and he immediately demanded a rematch.
Lewis, who insisted he was getting on top of his opponent and heading for a knockout victory, would not commit to one. But speaking at the Beverly
Hills Hotel here, he said it was among his options, which include retirement.
Another possibility is a pre-Christmas showdown with Roy Jones Jnr, the former middleweight champion who, in March, won the World Boxing Association's
Lewis confirmed that talks between the two camps begin next week.
But the more appealing match is Lewis-Klitschko II, and Steward believes it could beat the record-busting fight between Lewis and Mike Tyson last
That was the highest-grossing television pay-per-view event in America, bringing in pounds 65million in subscription fees. It also generated the
highest gate receipts for a boxing promotion of pounds 11m.
Steward said: "If Lennox and Klitschko fight a rematch, the public interest is going to go through the roof. It will exceed what the Tyson fight
"It would be a much bigger event.
You never knew what was going to happen with the Tyson fight, but everybody who sees the highlights of what happened here will know the rematch
between Lennox and Klitschko is going to be crazy.
"This may not have been graceful, but it was one of the most exciting brawl-type heavyweight fights with two big guys, both bleeding and fighting and
kicking." Despite his criticisms of Lewis, Steward insisted his man would rise to the occasion next time. "Lennox will come back sharp," he said.
"He will have time to adjust to Klitschko's height, and based on the experience he gained here he will knockout Klitschko.
"I don't think the fight is going to go three rounds. If Lennox comes out properly, it is going to be a mismatch."
Lewis, looking cool and relaxed despite the dramas of his 18th world championship fight, admitted he had gambled on accepting Klitschko as a late
replacement for his original ring rival, the Canadian Kirk Johnson, who pulled out earlier in the month with a torn muscle. Johnson was regarded as an
easier opponent who would suit Lewis as a tune-up after a year out of the ring. Lewis's plan was then to stay in training for a fight with Klitschko
Lewis, who came into the ring on Saturday at a career-highest 18st 4lbs, conceded: "It just turned out to be more of a fight than I expected.
"But if we have the rematch, Klitschko is going to get done because I always come back better the second time. I'll do him like I did Oliver McCall
and Hasim Rahman (Lewis's two career defeats which he later avenged). I'll bust up the other side of his face, too."
But it is not a done and dusted deal.
While the promoters will be rubbing their hands at the thought of a giant pay-day, Lewis intimated that immediate retirement was a serious
"I'm still thinking about it," he said, adding that he was leaning "60-70 per cent" towards carrying on fighting beyond his 38th birthday in
Lewis said: "I'll talk to my colleagues and then make a decision.
"I will probably look at the tape of the Klitschko fight and see a lot of things I could have done, should have done. That will affect the
Steward, sitting next to Lewis, said: "Despite the scorecards, Lennox was moving to knockout Klitschko. And that is after the worst fight of the
Another less likely option is a rematch with Tyson.
Lewis had said he would never fight him again after demolishing him in June, but now he admitted: "If Tyson has seen the Klitschko fight, maybe he
thinks he can take me.
"I say 'okay, come and try'."
Tyson turned down an offer to fight on Lewis's undercard here, yet he still apparently managed to throw punches over the weekend.
The former undisputed champion of the world was alleged to have brawled with two autograph hunters inside a New York hotel, and all three men were