Don King, on Mike Tyson

"Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter?
He went to prison, not to Princeton."

"To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music
and the dancers hit each other."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lennox Lewis retired 10 years ago

EXCLUSIVE: Lewis still can’t resist throwing a punch when he enters a gym but explains how he has resisted the lure of a comeback

Blood and guts: Lennox Lewis lands a right hand in his last fight, a bruising encounter against Vitali Klitschko

Lennox Lewis on 10 years since his retirement 

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It is 10 years since Lennox Lewis retired, 10 years since the heavyweight division last had an undisputed champion of the world.
Having avenged the two defeats of his professional career — against Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman — makes the task of staying the right side of the ropes easier. 

But the fighter in him remains. Every time he walks into a boxing gym, he cannot help but hit a bag with the same venom he felled rivals such as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

There is a sense from Lewis that he still cannot quite believe he has it all —  the illustrious fight career and the happy family with a former Miss Jamaica runner-up for his wife and four children.

“Let me put it like this,” he says. “When I was younger I came out of high school and had a dream. I’d seen this picture. This picture had a house at the top of a hill with a great view — I’d never seen anything like it in my life. That was then what I was working towards. I’m lucky to have that view now.”

Although he admits there has been a temptation to return, he says it is one he will never give in to.

“Yeah, I’ve been tempted,” he says. “When I’ve been commentating ring side, you can’t help thinking, ‘Let’s show this young guy how it’s done’. It’s what happened to George Foreman, it was why he came back.

“I felt that same thing, I thought, ‘I can get back in there, I can show them how it’s done’. That’s always been the trap for me.

 “But if you come back and beat that one guy, the trap’s still there. There’s always someone else mouthing off saying they’re going to beat you that you’re not the best because you didn’t fight them. It’s hard to become the best, it’s even harder to stay the best.

“Too many fighters live in the past. It’s the past that brings most guys back. It’s just they’ve lived the boxing life for so long, they’re so used to it, so they somehow get back in the ring — their natural habitat.

 Their minds are in the past but the problem is that their bodies are in the present."

“Boxing: it was always my goal to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. But that’s not my goal any more. My goals have shifted and I’m looking in a different direction.  

My children are my direction now. You have to make sure you’re there for them — that’s where the goal setting comes in for me now.”

Nowadays, Lewis gets his kicks in one-on-one contests by playing chess against strangers on his iPhone. It is a game he has always played, during his fight days to keep his mind sharp, similarly in retirement.
He usually keeps his identity secret but admits: “Sometimes if I’ve played someone a couple of times, I might reveal myself. They ask, ‘who are you?’ and I tell them Lennox Lewis. Whether they believe me, I don’t know. It’s fun.”

Despite his passion for chess, Lewis still lives and breathes boxing. He is not ashamed to admit he regularly watches his fights back at home.

“I get so excited even though I know what happens,” he says.

He also likes to talk through those fights with former foes. When he meets up with Holyfield, they immediately cast their minds back to their two heavyweight contests. “When I see Holyfield, I’m always telling him how he obviously lost those fights and that he headbutts,” says Lewis letting out that slow, low, infectious laugh of his as he does so.

“He tells me in the fights I had my trunks up so high that he couldn’t land a body punch, which wrecked his plan.”

Conversations with Tyson never turn to boxing nor the moment the American bit Lewis’s leg at a pre-fight press conference. Instead, the pair chew the fat over history and current affairs.
“He’s an open guy who always watches the news and reads up on politics and history,” he says of his old adversary. “He’s a diverse guy and there’s a lot of respect between the three of us.”
But as he talks about his past conquests, Lewis cannot quite believe it is 10 years since he retired. In that decade, he has carried the title of the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world with grave responsibility.

“For me, it is not something that many people have held in history so it’s of great importance and dignity is important,” he says.

“It’s like I’m a great king, at least of the heavyweights and there are certain things you wouldn’t do in that position. It’s important to do important things, to not waste time. We are only here for a short time, so we have to make sure it counts.”

One part of that is 'In Search of Champions', Lewis’s quest to uncover the next superstars of boxing as part of a worldwide search and subsequent television program.  Candidates have to send in a video of themselves in action but also explain what it takes to be a champion.

“Everywhere I go in the world, people want help whether in America, Britain or Poland,” he says. “But a lot of  people don’t get the chances. This is what we’re trying to do, to find the new superstars and give them all the backing they need. There are so many people with the talent but what they lack is the backing. If I hadn’t had the backing I got, I would have found it very difficult to become champion. We are after people with dedication.”

Part of the reason for the project is that Lewis is not happy with the state of boxing and believes someone needs to take charge of talent from an early age.

Lewis is happy in the comfort of his home in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Carribean.
 Take that: Lennox Lewis celebrates retaining his belts in 2002 after knocking out Mike Tyson in the eighth round
 Overview on the bay. Luxury resort and condominium Round Hills. Montego bay. Jamaica (Caribbean)

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