Boxing: Lewis has Tyson on his mind

Undisputed world champion in huge demand yearns to take time out to enjoy the moment.
IT WAS, even by the hyperbole- fuelled standards of boxing, an extraordinary statement.

"Lennox Lewis is the best heavyweight I have ever seen, and that includes Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston," Emanuel Steward, Lewis's trainer, said yesterday as the undisputed world champion gave a homecoming press conference in London.

"He has more natural talent than any fighter I've seen, but he's a much better fighter than he has shown," added Steward, who is obviously not a man to mess with understatement.

Lewis, who beat Evander Holyfield on points in Las Vegas of 14 November to claim the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation belts to go with the World Boxing Council title he already owned, looked unperturbed.

Surrounded by posters that read "Finally Crowned Undisputed King" (a cunning play on the acronym of a fashion company he promotes), he only looked taken aback when Steward deigned to ask in public when his man might actually demonstrate what he is capable of. "Despite Razor Ruddock, Tommy Morrison, Andrew Golota [all opponents knocked out by Lewis in the early rounds of contests] Lennox Lewis has still never shown all of his talent," Steward said. "That's a big question. When will he?"

The answer will not be known until April at least, which is when Lewis's promoters hope he will defend his titles in England. No challengers have yet been decided, although possible opponents include the North American Boxing Federation champion, Michael Grant, and the WBA's No1 contender, Henry Akinwande, whom Lewis defeated in 1997.

Mike Tyson was another name mentioned. "That's a lucrative fight out there and boxing's a lucrative business," Lewis said. "I'd love to fight Mike Tyson because he's a boxer of my era." Lewis suggested, however, that Tyson was not the likeliest man to be given the chance to face him next. "He's been a naughty boy lately," Lewis said of Tyson's recent behaviour in the ring, which included biting Holyfield's ear, and hitting after the bell in a "no contest" with Orlin Norris in his comeback fight. "There's a lot of pressure on him to keep out of trouble."

On finally having claimed the title of the undisputed champion, Lewis said: "It's been a long journey. I had to box 24 rounds [against Holyfield] just to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

"I like looking back at what I've been through and even the fact that most people didn't believe in me. But I love the fact I can look back and say, `I proved you wrong'. That gives me a feeling of accomplishment. It's a great feeling because I set certain goals for myself and this was a goal.

"I'm taking in what it means slowly - the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world of the 20th century, the first of the 21st century. The fact I said I was going to do it and did it makes me feel good."

When asked what ambitions he had left to fulfil, he added: "Allow me to bask in the moment for a while. Then I will consider it."

Panos Eliades, Lewis's promoter, said that he is already considering numerous offers to stage fights. "The Chinese government want Lennox to fight in Shanghai, in an 80,000-seat stadium in September or October next year," he said, adding that he had already talked to Chinese officials about the offer. "Tokyo, Canada, South Africa, they all want him, too. Lennox has lived up to expectations so far. He's the best and most exciting fighter I've ever worked with."

Given the mood of the day, he was never likely to say anything less.

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