By Randy Mastronicola, Portraits by Monti Smith
WHEN IT COMES TO STYLE, IMPACT AND LEGACY, THE FOLLOWING BASEBALL PLAYER ANALOGIES ARE A JUMPING OFF POINT IN GETTING A FEEL FOR CHAMPION LENNOX LEWIS.
THINK MORE DEREK JETER THAN BARRY BONDS.
THINK MORE MIKE TROUT THAN BRYCE HARPER.
AS FOR A BOXING ANALOGY:
THINK MORE LENNOX LEWIS THAN MIKE TYSON.
AND HERE’S SOMETHING THAT RESONATES:
THE. LAST. UNDISPUTED. HEAVYWEIGHT. CHAMPION. OF. THE. WORLD.
That’s a big part of Lennox Lewis’s boxing legacy. Throw in “three-time heavyweight champion” and “two-time lineal champion” as well. Lennox will tell you that those statements inform him with a lot pride.
Lennox Lewis might be a touch underrated in the pantheon of modern era heavyweights. We have born witness to the revolutionary Muhammad Ali—the greatest floating butterfly and bee stinger of all time; the tenacity and powerful left hook that Smokin’ Joe Frazier possessed; the fearsome brute strength and heavy-fast hands of George Foreman; the mercurial, dynamic and violent reign of Mike Tyson: all examples of heavyweight boxing’s not-so-recent glory days.
Lennox Lewis is underrated. His strength is somehow elegant; he’s a self-described “pugilist specialist.” Lennox speaks in an erudite manner but his demeanor is not pedantic. He holds dual citizenship from Canada and England, and that partly contributes to his gentlemanly vibe. Of course, being a gentleman is part of Lennox’s genuine nature and his reverence for the “sweet science” of boxing. However, to a degree, this sophisticated nature belies his lion-hearted ferocity, power and will to win. During his era, he took on the best that were thrown his way. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and Vitali Klitschko—all of whom he defeated during his illustrious career.
Muhammad Ali was an inspiration for Lennox, and the two men forged a friendship with mutual respect and admiration for one another’s skills. Lennox says, “He was like a father to me.”
After Lennox defeated Tyson in 2002, George Foreman was quoted as saying, “Lennox is beyond doubt the greatest heavyweight of all-time. He is not second any longer, he is there at the top of the tree. It reminded me of a young George Foreman and an elusive Muhammad Ali—everything you want in a fighter.”
We recently met up with Lennox at a photo studio in Los Angeles and had a wonderful back and forth conversation about life, boxing, giving back and his work as a FOX Sports Premier Boxing Champions analyst.
I’m sure you get the “What was it like to fight Tyson?” all the time… So, what was it like fighting Tyson?
I tell people, “Dude, ask Tyson what it was like fighting me.” [Laughs.]
On some level, that might have been the last rung on the ladder for you. A defining moment in terms of cementing your legacy.
Yes. Like I said—I set goals, achieve them, and then make new goals. When I talk to kids, I say, “Yes, I don’t want to be a boxer all my life.” I want to be the best, and when I’m the best, now I want to be the best table tennis player or I want to be the best businessman. I want to be the best father. So, there are always goals I’m trying to achieve. Obviously, my first goal was to be an Olympic champion. I went to the first Olympics and lost the title in the quarterfinals—bronze medal—that was okay, but I wasn’t happy with the bronze. I had the opportunity of going back to the Olympics four years later to win. Then once I won that, my goal was to become heavyweight champion of the world. Once I became that, my goal was to win all of the belts and become undisputed before I retired.
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