Boxing: Money May Force Tyson into the Ring ; Lewis Believes His Impressive Display in Regaining the World Title Has Left the Former Champion Reluctant to Fight

Article excerpt

LENNOX LEWIS sat up in his penthouse suite so contentedly it might have been Christmas morning with the present wrappings around his feet. He sipped tea with honey and on his lap were the world title belts he had a few hours earlier taken back from Hasim Rahman with brutal authority.

He had done it with such contemptuous zeal and fine technical mastery of his trade - "it was Lennox's most complete performance in the seven years I have been with him," said his trainer, Emanuel Steward - that it was easy to understand the feelings of a confidant of Rahman, who had said: "When you see a man broken up like that in full view of the world, when you see all his pride taken away, you wonder if six or seven months in the limelight was really worth it."

Of course in the dismantling process Rahman's bank balance was swollen by some $10m (pounds 7m), $250,000 of it handed to him in an army rucksack by the promoter Don King, but the man from Baltimore was speaking from the perspective of one of the toughest ghettos in America. There, the most basic imperative is to walk down the street with pockets filled not with money but credibility. Rahman had certainly spoken relentlessly of the value of "street cred" in the last days before the fight. He talked with pride of his capacity for trash talk, something he had been developing all his life. Lewis, on the other hand, came from a different, softer world. He had to follow a script and if you detached him from it he was nothing.

It was a catastrophic miscalculation that some feel Mike Tyson, with his deep understanding of both the street and the boxing ring and with a flair for trash talking that sometimes makes him sound like the Oscar Wilde of the hood, is unlikely to make. This, you have to believe, constituted the one cloud in Lewis's view across the desert from the 62nd floor.

Though plans for a fight next April between Lewis and Tyson, already a certain big money-earner but now hugely enhanced by Lewis's spectacular resurrection here at the weekend, are advanced, both Lewis and Steward believe that Tyson has no stomach for the fight. "I know it is the fight the public wants, and I want it too," said Lewis, "but I don't think he does. Whenever it is mentioned he talks about the need for two more fights, and just look at the people he is fighting. In Copenhagen the other day he fought a guy who could do nothing. Now he sees the job I did on Rahman and he is even more reluctant."

Steward said: "People have an idea of Mike Tyson that goes back to 1985, when he was coming up and intimidating everyone he fought. That's not been reality for so long, and anyway, in my opinion, he was always more of an attraction than a great fighter. Now, I would say he is scared of Lennox. I would also say that Lennox's legacy doesn't depend on fighting the Mike Tyson who exists now. In the last few fights he has he can underline what a great champion he has been. …