posted on Dec, 22 2003 @ 11:08 PM
Associated Press - December 22, 2003
LAS VEGAS (AP) - When the year began, Lennox Lewis was considered the true heavyweight champion. Vitali Klitschko wasn't even thought of as the best
fighter in his family.
Six bloody rounds in Los Angeles helped change that, but Klitschko still ended the year the way he began it - on the outside looking in, hoping Lewis
will fight him one more time for the heavyweight title he and his brother, Wladimir, so covet.
The question, though, may not be whether Lewis will fight Klitschko again. It's whether he will ever fight again. At age 38, Lewis seems to be tiring
of taking punches for a living - no matter how lucrative that living can be.
That adds an air of uncertainty to a heavyweight division full of pretenders but few real contenders. As heavyweights go, so goes boxing, and the
sport is in need of new personalities like the Ukrainian brothers to bolster its sagging popularity.
``Everything depends on Lennox Lewis,'' said Klitschko, who was beating Lewis on June 21 when the fight was stopped on cuts. ``I hope he will fight me
Lewis fought only six rounds all year, and his enthusiasm for the rigors of the sport appears to be waning. The previous year, he fought just once but
was spectacular in stopping Mike Tyson in the eighth round.
Tyson fought even less, going a total of only 49 seconds in a mismatch against Clifford Etienne in February. Beset with personal and managerial
problems, Tyson's biggest statement was made before the Etienne fight when he got a bizarre facial tattoo.
Tyson, though, may still be the sport's biggest draw even though his skills and his interest in fighting are declining. He declared bankruptcy during
the year despite earning tens of millions of dollars in the ring, saying he was $27 million in debt.
Instead of trying to earn that money back in the ring, Tyson appears to be banking on winning it in court against Don King. Tyson claims King stole
$100 million from him, and his case got a boost earlier this month when brain-damaged former fighter Terry Norris won a $7.5 million settlement from
Tyson, meanwhile, has been content to be a spectator, showing up at the World Series, a Los Angeles Lakers game and at Klitschko's Dec. 6 fight at
Madison Square Garden, where Klitschko stopped Kirk Johnson in the second round to become the WBC's No. 1 contender again.
``Take your place, please,'' Klitschko told Tyson at the post-fight press conference.
Almost lost in the excitement over Klitschko and the questions about Lewis was Roy Jones Jr. making history by becoming only the second light
heavyweight champion to win a piece of the heavyweight title.
The man he beat for the WBA title, John Ruiz, wasn't considered the real champion, but Jones still managed to easily outbox him for 12 rounds in
March. Whether Jones ever defends it is another matter, and he struggled to beat Antonio Tarver after coming back to 175 pounds (79.379 kilograms) in
November to fight for the light heavyweight title once again.
Jones wants to fight Tyson, though huge obstacles remain.
``One megadollar heavyweight fight with Tyson and then I'm done,'' Jones said.
Outside of the fractured heavyweight division, some order was restored at other weights. Bernard Hopkins showed he is a freak of nature by dismantling
William Joppy on Dec. 13 to retain the undisputed middleweight title, while Cory Spinks upset Ricardo Mayorga to unify the 147-pound (66.678-kilogram)
Spinks, son of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, can't punch much, but he is a slick southpaw who outboxed Mayorga to ruin one of boxing's most
compelling stories of the year.
Mayorga, a chain-smoking, beer-swilling Nicaraguan, had beaten Vernon Forrest twice to win two parts of the title and was to have moved up to 154
pounds (69.853 kilograms) to meet Shane Mosley in March if he had beaten Spinks.
``In my country women give birth to men,'' the Nicaraguan boasted after beating Forrest.
Now, Mosley must look elsewhere to try to capitalize on his controversial win over Oscar De La Hoya in their 154-pound (69.853-kilogram) title fight.
Mosley came on strong in the late rounds in Las Vegas to beat De La Hoya for a second time, a decision that so angered De La Hoya and his promoter,
Bob Arum, that they all but called the fight a fix.
The Mosley-De La Hoya bout was the biggest pay-per-view fight of the year, but don't expect a third matchup of the archrivals. De La Hoya's career
appears to be winding down, and he's turning his attention to his new Golden Boy Promotions company.
De La Hoya found out that life as a boxing promoter might be tougher than being a fighter, though, when he signed Marco Antonio Barrera to a contract
only to see him get beaten in a major upset by Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines in November.
Barrera was widely considered the best at 126 pounds (57.153 kilograms) and one of the best all-around fighters in boxing, but days before the fight
news leaked out about an operation he had years earlier to put a metal plate in his head. He took a beating before finally being stopped by Pacquiao
in the 11th round in San Antonio.