Boxing: Holyfield puts the blame on Lewis

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The Independent Online
EVANDER HOLYFIELD holds Lennox Lewis entirely responsible for the difficulties that will probably prevent them meeting this year for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

Taunted by Lewis who trades under the motto, "Anyone, anywhere, anytime", Holyfield says that he would have gone in with Lewis this summer if the World Boxing Council champion's advisor's had been more realistic in negotiation.

At a press conference in New York to announce his mandatory defence against Henry Akinwande on 6 June at Madison Square Garden, the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion was dismissive of the suggestion that he is wary of Lewis. "I've never ducked anybody," he said. "Out of all the fighters, I wouldn't duck Lennox Lewis. He fits my style just like Tyson fits my style."

Negotiations for a unification bout between Holyfield and Lewis fell through earlier this year when Home Box Office, the American cable network, failed to meet Holyfield's demand for a $20m (pounds 12.2m) guarantee. HBO offered Holyfield $16m plus everything that came in over 650,000 pay-per - view buys. Taking Don King's cut into account, Lewis's purse of $12m made it impossible for HBO to make the contest.

Holyfield blames Lewis. "If Lennox really wants to be the undisputed champion, he should do what's necessary," Holyfield said, pointing out that he took less than he wanted for his first fight against Tyson because he believed he could win and make more in a rematch. "That's the risk Lennox should be prepared to take," he added.

Making it clear that he requires Lewis to accept that status of challenger, Holyfield added: "Why should I take less money to fight him. I didn't work this hard to come down two levels to prove myself. The only thing that is stopping Lewis from fighting me is that he knows it is safer to talk than to get in there. If you fight, you've got nothing more to talk about. Why should I have to take a pay cut or go across the street [to HBO] to make things work."

If, or should it be when, Holyfield and Lewis get together, it will be for the rival network, Showtime, which lost $10m last November when putting out the second contest between Holyfield and Tyson. Showtime did not mind Holyfield hooking up with HBO for one contest but not for less than the $20m they paid him to defend against Tyson.

Holyfield thinks Lewis did well to come through the shock of almost being knocked out by Shannon Briggs in Atlantic City last Saturday. "No fighter can be absolutely sure of himself," Holyfield said. "In the contest before I first fought Tyson I looked awful against Bobby Czyz," he added. "It can happen."

Nevertheless, Holyfield is clear in his mind that he's the real champion. "If they [Lewis] want to fight, come meet me," he said.