Originally Posted by Sugar Nick
Friday, Jul 14, 2000 03:00 PM EDT
Lennox Lewis, heavyweight bore of the world
Having trouble falling asleep? Try watching one of lackluster champion Lennox Lewis' fights. He'll knock you out without laying a glove on you.
By Allen Barra
“It’s not my fault,” heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis complained at Thursday night’s weigh-in for his Saturday night title defense, “that I’m the outstanding heavyweight of my era, the way Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis were before me.” Well, uh, no, but it is Lewis’ fault that he’s dull, unimaginative, passive-aggressive and that he fights more like Bart the Bear than a Raging Bull. Lewis is 250 pounds, but as he demonstrated in his two fights with Evander Holyfield, his primary offensive weapons are a pawing left jab and a bear hug. As Holyfield phrased it after their first bout, “Every time I got in close he hugged me tighter than my wife.”
If Lewis’ fight with Francois Botha was broadcast nationally against a golf match featuring Tiger Woods, it would lose 2-to-1. Think about that. How would you have answered someone 20 years ago — no, 10 years ago — who told you golf would outdraw a heavyweight championship fight? The really sad fact is that this says less about the rise of golf than it does about the decline of boxing.
In truth, Lennox Lewis isn’t so much a cause of this decline as much as a symbol. Lewis has defended his title seven times, but a couple of those were against guys who weren’t household names in their own households. Lewis is quick to point out that he “isn’t responsible for the quality of my opposition,” which, again, is true. It’s not his fault that the best heavyweight he’s been in the ring with, Holyfield, was 36 when they fought for the first time. It is his fault, though, that he fought him twice without displaying passion or conviction, getting an absurdly unfair draw the first time and a lackluster win by decision the next. How boring were those fights? After the second, Bert Sugar of Bert Sugar’s Fight Game magazine told everyone at the press conference that “vandals broke into the arena box office and returned 500 tickets.” “I believe I am the best,” says Lewis, “I believe I am head and shoulders over everybody in world heavyweight boxing. I know that in a room full of men I would be the last man standing.” He probably would be. People who spend too much time around Lewis tend to nod off.
Lennox Lewis wears the same title as Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, but it bears the same relation to theirs as the Holy Roman Emperor did to Caesar. Activist groups that seek the abolition of boxing are wasting their time. Boxing is erasing itself from public memory faster than last year’s MTV Awards.