World Heavyweight Champion
What Lennox Lewis dismissed as a ‘lucky punch’ by Hasim Rahman could have had catastrophic consequences for the man from West Ham. The problem certainly wasn’t financial. Lewis had already earned more than £60 million, making him Britain’s highest paid sportsmen. But in his mid-3 0s, Lewis knew that he was one more defeat from retirement.
Lewis, however, gave a top-notch display, dominating from the outset and capping it off with a scintillating left-right combination which laid ‘The Rock’ out for the count in the fourth round. Rahman’s reign had lasted’209 days, four days less than Leon Spinks. Lewis found himself in the exalted company of Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield as the only men to win the heavyweight crown three times.
Lewis’s thoughts immediately turned to a proposed April 2002 meeting with Tyson. Lewis filed a suit claiming a mid-January fight between Tyson and Mercer wouldn’t allow enough time to promote his clash with Iron Mike three months later. Lewis got his way, and Tyson was not best pleased at the champion’s interference in his affairs. He pointed out that he had stood aside as the WBC’s No 1 challenger to allow the second Lewis-Rahman fight to go ahead. This contre-temps ensured that the ill-feeling between the two warriors was simmering nicely. It was soon in danger of boiling over when Tyson made some wildly intemperate remarks about what injuries he would like to inflict on Lewis, and some disgraceful ones involving the champion’s family. No doubt this was partly down to the usual pre-fight hype that is now de rigeur. But there was also a tangible feeling that this time it was personal. The touch paper was lit. Everybody stood well back and waited for the fireworks.