FORMER world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis says it is down to Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury to prove their superiority at the top of the heavyweight division.
Lewis, who is back in England ahead of a show – Undisputed: An Evening with Lennox Lewis – about his career. It is on Thursday, September 6 at Indigo inside London’s O2 Arena.
International Boxing Hall of Famer Lennox believes there is no standout in his old weight-class at present and that it is down to them to find out who belongs on the throne he was perched on for years.
“I put them in the same bag of groceries because it’s not like one guy has really dominated and shown that he’s the best out there and he doesn’t have to worry about the other two,” said Lewis. “So I think that’s being sorted out as we speak. Slowly.”
Joshua fights Alexander Povetkin in September while Fury and Wilder are set to collide before the end of the year.
During Lennox’s time at the top, he was oft-compared to Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, with Riddick Bowe an itch he never got to scratch. He sees the same boxing politics working now as it did then. “Poli-tricks,” he used to call them.
“There are similarities in the sense that there’s just a big mess to sort out. We had a big mess that we had to sort out, too. And it’s being sorted out slowly and we went through the same talk, ‘They don’t want to fight, we want the fight.’
“I know who wants the fight and who doesn’t want the fight. I’ve been there. So it’s really down to probably the promoters not speaking on good terms and it’s really just a fight about money. I say if you want the fight, be fair. One guy has got a belt, the other guy has got three. Cut it up like that.”
Lewis has famously wound up on good terms with old adversaries Holyfield and Tyson, yet he and Evander – with whom he occasionally meets [“we do dates together”] – says that some of the bad-feeling from their controversial 1999 draw has manifested itself into a long-held shared resentment, some twenty years on.
Many thought Lewis, 41-2-1 (32), deserved the decision, yet Holyfield landed a share of the spoils.
“It was the fact he didn’t admit that he headbutted me,” said Lewis, of what has irked him the most. “That was the worst part. I was like, ‘Dude, you headbutted me. Plus you lost’.”
“And he says, ‘I go with what the judges are saying’.”
“’What are you talking about?’”
“’Alright, cool. I guess you can’t be a man about it.’”
Lennox has an alternative of what Holyfield’s line should be.
“’You won this one, I’m going to win the next one,’ say something like that but don’t say, ‘Oh, er, the judges said what they wanted’.”
“’But do you feel you won the fight?’”
“’Yeah, I did’.”
“’You didn’t, man’.”
“’You were throwing up after’.”
“He still won’t admit he headbutted me. One time there was the three of us on a panel and I said, ‘Holyfield headbutts really well’.”
“He’s always denying it saying he doesn’t do it, but he does.”
“I guess he’s in that era of not admitting to it.”
Lennox can laugh about it now. Secure in his legacy and content in his retirement he allows the facts to talk for him. His record says just as much and he has taken the sting out of the detractors who doubted him for so long.
“I only live positively,” he smiled. “I don’t let bad stuff come. My glass is always half full. And the whole thing was setting a goal and achieving it.”
And now, in the UK, he is keen to tell the stories from behind the scenes of his career. There will be the disappointment of not facing Bowe, the shock defeats to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman – as well as the revenge victories – and so much more. And he insists the format is something that has not been done before, be it conventional after-dinner speaking or something similar to Tyson’s One Man Show, which Lennox has seen. Some of Lewis’ old friends and rivals, including Derek Williams and Vitali Klitschko, will help him tell the story.
“I didn’t want those old dinner aspects, where you go, have dinner and talk for a couple of minutes, take pictures and then go home,” he said. “I want to do it even better. I want to use film and bring people into the atmosphere of what it was like when I was boxing. I want to bring them down memory lane so they think, ‘I know where I was at that time.’ And they can ask questions and I will have some of my celebrity friends there and some past fighters will be in the audience. I’m bringing people back and allowing them to reignite memories from the past.”
He thought Tyson’s show was “good”, but his will be unique. That has always been the Lewis way.
“For Mike Tyson, he had to do a lot of talking,” said Lewis. “I don’t have to do a lot of talking. Pictures are a thousand words, once you’re there you’re in the film, you’re in that moment, you’re in that space. It’s interesting because I’m a big sci-fi fan and I thought they should make a movie about someone who can travel in time but you can travel in movies. Once you replay a movie, you can jump in it, reset it and jump back out, so that history has been changed [in that movie].”
No doubt he will cautiously draw the audience in and line them up for some of those famous right hands, the ones that did for the likes of Tyson, Frans Botha and countless other heavyweights from his generation.