Boxing: Bruno believes in power of Lewis
Boxing: Experts divided on outcome of world heavyweight unification bout but agree that Briton's power is the key
Thursday 11 March 1999
As the majority of the British boxing fraternity backed Lewis to beat Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, the former World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Frank Bruno, who lost to Lewis at Cardiff Arms Park in 1993, also favoured Lewis to unify the world championship.
Bruno gave Lewis some problems before being stopped, out on his feet, in the seventh round of his WBC challenge. But the Londoner made it fourth time lucky two years later when he fought Oliver McCall for the same title at Wembley Stadium, gaining a points victory.
And now the retired former world champion has put the differences behind him and says he will be cheering Lewis to victory. "I fancy Lewis very strongly because he's fresher, he's stronger and he's more stylish," Bruno said. "But it'll be a great fight. Evander has the possibility of stopping Lewis if he catches him right and I think that's what he'll try to do.
"Evander's best chance is to keep moving because with Lennox's size he might not be so agile after the first two or three rounds. There is a danger that Lewis will come in too big but I can't believe he'll be 18 stone. I think he'll go for power and Emanuel Steward and all those around Lennox know the score."
Bruno thinks Holyfield has nothing left to prove - and will go down as one of the greatest heavyweights whether or not he bows out as the undisputed champion of the world. "At the end of the day Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano are the best," Bruno said. "But Evander will be up there as one of the greats. Lewis has got to be up for this fight more than any other. He's a bit too laid-back at times and he's laboured against some of his opponents. But he knows the score against Holyfield and he will be well up for it."
Lloyd Honeyghan, the man who pulled off one of the biggest shocks in British boxing history when he stopped Donald Curry for the undisputed welterweight title, has told Lewis his route to success lies in intimidating Holyfield. Honey-ghan smashed his way to a stoppage in seven rounds against a boxer thought to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Honeyghan, a promoter and trainer in London, said: "I think Holyfield might have a problem against the bigger men. I was in Vegas when Holyfield was stopped by [Riddick] Bowe and I thought `that's it, Holyfield's career is over.' But you've got to remember he came back from all that. He's been amazing. So it's basically Holyfield's heart against Lewis's size."
Honeyghan edges towards Lewis, but says questions remain over the Briton because of the quality of fighters he has faced. At the same time, he feels the opposite is true for Holyfield. "Lennox has not been in against too many top-class fighters," he said. "Holyfield won't freeze, but he's had so many wars and they take it out of you. Holyfield always raises himself for the big ones but he might grow old in that ring."
Speed will be all important to the Briton in Saturday's battle, according to Joe Calzaghe, who holds the World Boxing Organisation's super-middleweight crown. "I can see Lennox winning early. But I think he's got to get it over quickly, because the longer it goes on it's Holyfield's fight," Calzaghe said.
"If that happens, I'd be strongly in favour of Evander because I think Lennox is so big that he will tire. I think it's best if Lennox comes out firing. I think he will have to. Lennox isn't at his best against the smaller guys, so if Holyfield can get under his big right hand and drag him past the first few rounds then I see Holyfield doing well.
"You never know, it's one of those kind of toss-up fights. But at the end of the day, no one knows how much Holyfield has got left. He got beaten by Bowe and [Michael] Moorer and then he surprised everyone by beating [Mike] Tyson."
Calzaghe's promoter, Frank Warren, said: "It's certainly a very good fight. I think Lewis suffers by fighting smaller guys, he's never liked fighting them. The type of punches Holyfield throws, hooks and uppercuts, are the ones Lewis doesn't like. Holyfield has a good chin, and he's going to need one because Lewis can definitely punch. But Lennox has been clipped and his legs have gone a bit in his last few fights, as was the case against Shannon Briggs.
"If Holyfield's got anything left in him, it's going to be a tough fight for Lewis. Holyfield's got stamina, he fights at a tremendous pace, and it's going to be interesting. Lewis had a tough, gruelling fight against Ray Mercer, but Mercer is not Evander Holyfield. If Holyfield is there after five or six rounds, Lewis I think will get tired. I can see Holyfield winning it late."
Leading British heavyweight title contender Danny Williams said: "I think Holyfield will win in six, seven or eight rounds. He's been through the wars more than Lennox. He's got more experience. Holyfield's one of the best conditioned fighters around and you've got to fight three minutes of each round with him. Lewis seemed to flag a lot in his last defence against Zeljko Mavrovic, and you can't do that against Evander. He was taking a lot of breathers, dropping his hands, messing about."
Steward, the famed trainer of the Kronk gymnasium, now hoping to inspire Lewis to victory, has been working on the left jab in a bid to improve his chances. He feels that, given the size and strength of his boxer, it should be a devastating weapon. But instead it is often neglected by Lewis, who uses it as a measure for his right hand.
Keeping the jab in storage lets opponents concentrate on avoiding the right and landing their own combinations. And with the number of punches Holyfield is expected to throw, if Lewis does not use his jab he could be in big trouble.
If Lewis decides to use both hands, Holyfield at three inches shorter and some 30 pounds lighter, could find his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles at risk. Steward is well aware of his fighter's physical assets and his psychological shortcomings, prompting him to admit that he does not know which Lewis will show up.
"Lewis has to come out and at the first opportunity... he's gotta let his missiles fly," said Steward, who also trained Holyfield at one stage.
"Even with [Oliver] McCall... crying, he [Lewis] still wouldn't step up," Steward said, referring to the January 1997 fight against McCall, who effectively had a nervous breakdown in the ring, refused to fight and was disqualified in the fifth round.
But in the fight Lewis was timid, even against an obviously troubled McCall, who had knocked out the Briton in September 1994 to win the WBC title. Surprisingly, Steward is less than adamant that his man will win, but promises: "Even if he loses it's gonna be a war. I do feel if Lennox comes out and fights to his potential, he's too strong for Evander."
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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