Boxing: Lewis gains respect in US

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The Independent Online
LENNOX LEWIS may have to wait for a re-match before proving he is the true heavyweight champion, but his performance against Evander Holyfield appears finally to have won the World Boxing Council champion the respect he craves on the other side of the Atlantic.

Lewis' controversial draw at Madison Square Garden has outraged much of the boxing fraternity in America. "In a strange way he's become a hero," said his trainer, Emmanuel Steward.

The New York Post summed up the furore with the headline "It Stinks", while the New York State governor, George Pataki, wants a state commission to investigate the fight. The city's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, said: "I am embarrassed as a New Yorker," he said. "I know boxing as well as I know about being a mayor. There's no way Holyfield won that fight. There were a lot of people here from England - 6,000, 7,000 - and they will be going home... thinking we are a bunch of cheats."

Lewis plans to relax in snowy New York for a couple of days, after the decision of the three boxing bodies involved to order a re-match. It may not be as simple as that. Holyfield, holder of the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles, said he would not want to fight before September. "In six months if he wants to get it on we'll get it on," Holyfield said.

Politics could still intervene. Negotiations will be even more contentious between pay-per-view boxing rivals HBO, which backs Holyfield through promoter Don King, and Showtime, the network with which Lewis has a long- term deal. Lewis, who earned half of Holyfield's pounds 12.5m purse, is sure to want a better deal for a re-match. He would also like it be held in Britain.

Judge Eugenia Williams scored the fifth round 10-9 in favour of Holyfield and not as reported yesterday.

Verdict controversy, page 5