Magazine article Insight on the News

Fighting Expectations

Magazine article Insight on the News

Fighting Expectations

Article excerpt

Britain's Lennox Lewis wants to challenge Mike Tyson but has yet to make his case in the ring.

It wasn't how it was supposed to be. The 13,000 boxing fans packed into New York's Madison Square Garden greeted the judges' split decision, which narrowly gave the bout to Briton Lennox Lewis and robbed American Ray Mercer of victory, with catcalls and boos.

For several months, Lewis had been the talk of the boxing world, touted as Mike Tyson's nemesis. The towering Londoner - he stands 6-foot-5 with a sculpted muscular body - believes it his "destiny" to beat Tyson in the ring.

But on May 9, before Hollywood stars Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson and political luminaries such as Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, Lewis flopped, adding to the widespread sense that there are no credible challengers to Tyson. The heavyweight pride of Britain was leaden and unconvincing. He didn't deserve to win the fight.

Lewis' trainer, Emanuel Steward, was talking a big fight before his boxer's bout with Mercer. His claim? That when Lewis meets Tyson - the champ is obliged by court rulings to fight the challenger - the 30-year-old Briton will send "Iron Mike" to the canvas in two rounds.

Lewis also was cocky prior to the Mercer bout. His year with Steward - the boxer has suffered from deficient trainers - and the rigors of Detroit's famous Kronk Gym hardened the fighter, who so often has fallen short of promised greatness. While acknowledging that Mercer, a former Army sergeant, would be a stern test, Lewis told Insight before the fight that he was looking ahead to Tyson, hoping to "send a message to a few people - if they are ducking me now, they'll be running for their lives after."

But after Lewis' near-disastrous performance against the 35-year-old Mercer, those boasts took on the trappings of mere bravado. The judges saved Lewis. The split decision - one judge had the 10-round bout a draw and the other two gave Lewis a wafer-thin win - was based upon the Briton's rally in the dying minutes of the fight. After the bout, Lewis acknowledged how close he had been to throwing away his chance of meeting Tyson.

"I knew I had to win the final round," Lewis conceded to reporters. When the journalists suggested he had sustained a moral defeat and no longer should be considered Tyson's main challenger, the Londoner responded: "I'm telling you, Ray Mercer has a tough chin. …

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