Top 12 Greatest Lennox Lewis Victories
It was on this date that Lennox Lewis first put the heavyweight division on notice with a scintillating KO of a most dangerous and battle-tested adversary. What better time then, to consider the greatest victories in the career of the former undisputed and lineal heavyweight champion? A super heavyweight gold medallist at the 1988 Olympics, Lewis went on to carve out a Hall of Fame career and establish himself among the great heavyweights in history. But which victories stand out among the rest? Considering the calibre of opponent and the significance of the result, here’s one man’s take on Lewis’s twelve most impressive performances.
12. TKO7 Frank Bruno, 1st October 1993: For the first time ever, two Brits squared off for a version of the heavyweight championship. Bruno, beloved by the British public, made things personal by taunting Lewis, who’d represented Canada in the Olympics, insinuating that only one of them was a “true Brit”. Over six rounds Bruno looked in charge, scoring with solid jabs that began swelling Lewis’s face. But in the seventh a monster counter left hook had Bruno badly hurt, and Lewis rained down right hands until the plucky challenger, upright but frozen stiff on the ropes, was rescued by referee Mickey Vann.
11. TKO5 Shannon Briggs, 28th March 1998: Briggs, the brash New Yorker, talked a big game and entered with a legitimate claim as the lineal heavyweight champion, having just beaten an aging George Foreman. Lewis, meanwhile, was perhaps overconfident after his ruthless demolition of Andrew Golota. Surprised early by Briggs’ speed, Lewis was wobbled in the first, before reasserting control and blasting Briggs to the canvas twice in a fourth-round shoot-out, then laying him flat out with a huge right in the fifth. Briggs showed immense courage to drag himself off the canvas, but was mercifully stopped soon after, in one of Lewis’s more exciting victories.
10. UD12 David Tua, 11th November 2000: A short and squat heavyweight at just 5 feet 10 and 245 pounds, the “Tuaman” threw a hellish left hook that arguably made him the most dangerous puncher alive. In his only defeat, a twelve round war with Ike Ibeabuchi, he’d also shown bags of stamina and heart to go with the tremendous power. Yet he struggled to lay a glove on Lewis. In a masterful display of boxing, the champion used his superior ring IQ to befuddle Tua on the end of his jab, outclassing him over twelve one-sided rounds.
9. KO2 Michael Grant, 29th April 2000: It’s easy to forget now, but Grant was once touted as the successor to the heavyweight throne. And after finally being crowned as the undisputed champion, Lewis went straight after the best challenger available in his very first defense. For once, at least according to the tale of the tape, Lewis was in the unusual position of being physically outmatched, Grant being taller, heavier, younger, and with a longer reach. The American came out aggressively, but Lewis battered him to the canvas three times in the opening round and finished him off with a humongous uppercut in the second.
8. TKO6 Tommy Morrison, 7th October 1995: A year removed from his shock defeat to Oliver McCall, Lewis was still in the process of rebuilding under the tutelage of Manny Steward. Morrison was a top-quality heavyweight with a dangerous left hook, and he was coming off a thrilling stoppage over Razor Ruddock, but Lewis made it look easy. A steady stream of stiff jabs and hard rights busted up Morrison’s face, and when he was bludgeoned to the floor for the fourth time by a series of heavy hooks and uppercuts in round seven, referee Mills Lane had seen enough.
7. MD12 Ray Mercer, 10th May 1996: In a meeting between two gold medallists from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Lewis gritted out a decision over a capable and dangerous opponent. With the kayo loss to McCall still lingering, a sceptical trans-Atlantic audience remained unconvinced that Lewis was tough enough to ever become heavyweight champion again. But against the power-punching, iron-jawed ex-marine, Lennox showed he could battle in the trenches against a top American contender. The fight was a bruising, close encounter, but dispelled the myth that Lewis lacked heart or the ability to take a punch.
6. KO8 Mike Tyson, 8th June 2002: Had this megafight taken place in the mid-nineties, it would be right at the top of this list. Sadly, by 2002 “Iron” Mike’s peak was a distant memory. But while the myth of Tyson’s invincibility had long since been exposed, his magnetic grip on the public consciousness held firm, making the match one of the highest grossing events in history. Mike began positively, even connecting with some dangerous looking left hooks, but his fuse burned out quickly. Lewis then dominated behind his long, painful shots until a trademark, massive right hand closed the book on the last remaining rivalry from a great heavyweight era.
5. TKO6 Vitali Klitschko, 21st June 2003: “Dr. Ironfist,” stepping in at just two weeks’ notice, took the fight straight to the champ, and an upset seemed possible as Lewis was rocked early on and behind on all the scorecards. But after taking the Ukrainian giant’s best shots in a tougher-than-expected dogfight, Lennox regained control and began crashing home right hands and monstrous uppercuts. Klitschko, dazed but defiant, was pulled out after the sixth due to the horrific cuts Lewis’s punches had inflicted on his face. The fact Vitali went on to become one of the best heavyweights of the ensuing era is a testament to Lewis’s greatness.
4. UD12 Evander Holyfield, 13th November 1999: No doubt the first encounter with “The Real Deal” at Madison Square Garden should be considered a victory, the draw verdict from the judges one of the most controversial in decades, but the simple truth is both men were not at their best that night. Holyfield barely showed up, while Lewis was overly cautious and tentative. The rematch was a different story, with the two champions putting it all on the line. Evander may have been 37-years-old, but he was still the most accomplished opponent Lewis had ever faced, and he gave one last great effort to make this clash more than worthy of the hype. Both had moments of ascendancy, with Lewis boxing to an early lead, before a surging Holyfield had him on shaky legs in the middle rounds. The younger man landed the more telling blows as they battled down the stretch and, finally, after a decade of chasing the ultimate prize, Lennox Lewis was crowned the undisputed world champion.
3. KO1 Andrew Golota, 4th October 1997: The abortive Lewis vs Bowe superfight was one of the biggest disappointments of nineties boxing. It came close on a few occasions, but was wrecked for good thanks to Polish loose cannon, Golota. Handing a comprehensive beating to Bowe over two fights, he’d somehow managed to lose both for repeated low blows. Despite the DQ losses, the performances proved he was a force to be reckoned with, and the bookmakers had him and Lewis at almost even money, with several critics tipping the Pole. Lewis made an absolute mockery of the narrow pre-fight odds though, blitzing a shell-shocked Golota in just 95 seconds of clinical heavyweight destruction.
2. KO4 Hasim Rahman, 17th November 2001: Rahman scored a shocking kayo of Lewis in South Africa and almost squirmed his way out of the rematch, until a New York judge ordered him to honour the contract. The two brawled on a TV studio floor during a heated build-up, but the former champion’s focus was unflappable. Razor-sharp from the off, Lewis used his legs to box and move, peppering Rahman with stiff jabs before teeing him up with a perfect sweeping right hand that splayed him out on the canvas. The revenge knockout to become a three-time champ was surely one of the sweetest victories of a great career.
1. KO2 Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, 31st October 1992: The so-called “Fight for the Right” promised the victor a shot at the undisputed crown, versus the winner of Holyfield vs Bowe. Lewis, 21-0 (18), was untested at elite level, whereas Ruddock had proven his class in two competitive losses against Tyson. The power-punching Canadian, 27-3-1 (20), came in as a 2-1 favorite, but a beautifully-timed overhand right took Ruddock’s legs from under him in the first round, and a brutal barrage in round two left him face first on the canvas, in a scintillating performance that sent shockwaves through the division. “It almost seemed as if Lewis had wiped out 93 years of English heavyweight futility in three minutes and 46 seconds of boxing,” reported the Los Angeles Times. It doesn’t get much more emphatic than that.