Lewis lays rumors of return to rest once and for all
Lennox Lewis has seen it happen to other fighters: Out of shape and past their sell date but still trudging on, hoping to recapture past glory. It's why Lewis retired while on top, it's the reason he rests on his laurels and it's why rumors of his comeback will remain just that, writes Dan Rafael.
Originally Published: November 26, 2008By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
Richard Heathcote/Action Images/Icon SMI What's left to prove? Lennox Lewis is satisfied with his accomplishments inside the ring.LAS VEGAS -- Almost as soon as Vitali Klitschko returned to the ring in October, after four years in retirement, to stop Samuel Peter and reclaim a heavyweight title, the whispers began: Would Lennox Lewis also come out of retirement for a rematch with Klitschko? The rumors escalated a few weeks later when David Haye knocked out Monte Barrett on Nov. 15 in London with Klitschko at ringside in full view of the British press corps that had chronicled Lewis' career. Klitschko and manager Bernd Boente helped stir up the rhetoric by saying they had heard Lewis (41-2-1) was training for a potential comeback. Then Klitschko called for his old rival to return to the ring to fight him in 2009, six years after Lewis, trailing on the scorecards, opened a massive cut over Klitschko's left eye and stopped him in the sixth round of a thrilling slugfest to retain the heavyweight championship. That June 2003 fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was Lewis' last fight. In February 2004, the heavyweight world champion called a news conference in London and announced his retirement, walking away from a $22 million offer for a rematch with Klitschko.
Vitali or Wladimir?
Who does Lennox Lewis regard as the best heavyweight in the world?
|While heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko pursues a rematch with the retired Lennox Lewis, the former champ regards unified beltholder Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali's younger brother, as the best active heavyweight. "The best heavyweight that's active now, I would have to give to Wladimir," said Lewis, who once fought Wladimir in a mock bout in the movie "Ocean's Eleven." "Wladimir, there is still a lot of work to be done. He still hasn't captured what we really need in a heavyweight champion. We need some fluidity, especially when it comes to his combination punching. But different fights bring out different things. We're looking at the best right now. He's the best. He's beating everyone in front of him." Lewis, however, believes his British countryman, cruiserweight champion-turned-heavyweight hopeful David Haye might pose an interesting challenge. "I don't see [Wladimir] having any [big] matchups right now, but David Haye is out there," Lewis said. "He may give him a real good run for his money. Whether David Haye is big enough or not is the question. We'll need to see if David Haye can use his speed and use his attributes to help him win a fight of that magnitude." -- Dan Rafael|
"He waits until I am in retirement to call out my name," said Lewis, who still has animosity toward Bowe. "I will come out of retirement to beat up that guy. I'll beat him up for free." Lewis also has heard about another one of his rivals, 46-year-old former champ Evander Holyfield, getting ready to challenge titleholder Nikolai Valuev for a belt on Dec. 20 in Germany. Lewis had a look of disbelief on his face when asked about Holyfield, with whom he drew in 1999 in one of boxing's most controversial decisions before finally unifying the titles with a decision against him later that year. "I don't like to see that," Lewis said of Holyfield continuing to fight. "If anything [bad] happens, it makes the sport look bad. Everybody has their time when they need to retire. He should know his time. If he feels he can go on, he's fooling himself. I think for me, it was time to pack it in. For Holyfield, I think it's time to pack it in as well." Unlike the financially strapped Holyfield, Lewis said he's taken care of his millions, so he doesn't need to fight. "I'm not really silly with the cash," he said. "I don't worship money, so I am not silly with it. I'm looking out for my family. This whole market is flat, but it doesn't really affect me. I didn't make no bad investments. My reason for fighting wasn't money. It was never money. It was always glory." Still, that doesn't change Vitali Klitschko's relentless pursuit of a rematch. "Vitali dreams about me," Lewis said. "Vitali has me on his mind, man. I don't know what's wrong with the guy. I haunt him. He wasn't in my history. I am not part of his era. What [the Klitschkos are] trying to do right now is dig up old names so they can make their names great. It doesn't make no sense. Even if he's serious, I feel sorry for him." While Holyfield fights on, Lewis almost certainly will be elected to the International Hall of Fame when results of the balloting are announced Dec. 9. Only three fighters have ever fought after being elected to the Hall of Fame: Sugar Ray Leonard, when he was stopped by Hector Camacho, and Azumah Nelson and Jeff Fenech, who renewed their rivalry earlier this year. For Lewis, election to the Canastota, N.Y., shrine will be the icing on top of his career, he said. "I'm glad I'm around to appreciate it," he said. "It's great to be in the presence of great champions before me who worked so hard to achieve their goals. I'm just overjoyed and happy." So will Lewis become another Hall of Famer to return to the ring? "My answer is no," Lewis said, laughing loudly and winking his eye. What's with the wink? "There was something in my eye," he said, laughing again. That's Lewis, dodging the question as deftly as he dodged so many punches. Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
AP Photo/Laura RauchToo bad, so sad: Lennox Lewis warned boxing fans would miss him when he was gone.