At long last the real Lennox Lewis has stood up - and the world must take notice of the fighter one American writer had dubbed: "The heavyweight king of hesitancy." Hesitancy? It is doubtful that Andrzej Golota, the challenger for Lewis's World Boxing Council title who was decimated in 95 seconds here on Saturday evening, would recognise that quality in Lewis.
The awesome destruction of the Chicago-based Pole was the culmination of an eight-year, 33-fight (one defeat, 26 wins by KO) career of frustration, disappointments and dreams all but disappeared. But Lewis turned Golota into his whipping boy, sending a chill through heavyweight boxing in the process. Two previous fights this year had seen opponents Oliver McCall and Henry Akinwande steal Lewis's glory by refusing to compete. Golota, however, was never given that chance. He was swiftly, summarily dispatched.
"I was denied great victories in those fights and I was so hungry to prove myself," Lewis said afterwards. "I believe I did tonight."
Not wrong. Lewis's performance in defence of his World Boxing Council title was near perfect. How else does one describe a fight in which he landed 30 of 36 punches thrown, taking only two, of minor consequence, in return? No pain, no gain, they say. Lewis made a lie of that and a mug of anyone - and there were many on this side of the Atlantic - who doubted him.
"That was a different Lennox Lewis in there tonight," said the outstanding WBC light-heavyweight champion, Roy Jones, commentating on the American pay-per-view television broadcast. "No fighter can live with this Lennox Lewis."
Lewis needed to produce a crushing performance, and he did. America had grown disillusioned by the lack of drama in his fights, an apparent absence of passion in the man, and had all but dismissed Lewis. He can never be ignored again after this emphatic win.
"It was like your six balls coming out of the Lottery on a Saturday evening," said Lewis's elated manager, Frank Maloney. "The performance spoke for itself."
Golota was seen as a genuine threat. Most American publications picked him to win on the strength of his performances in two disqualification losses to the former champion Riddick Bowe last year, fights Golota was winning before inexplicably fouling his way to defeat. But the so-called Beast from the East was humbled by Lewis.
The size of his task and the sheer size of Lewis, 32, were too much for the 29-year-old Golota, who, afterwards, was taken to the Atlantic City Medical Center, having suffered an anxiety attack. Golota was given oxygen and taken on a stretcher from the arena, but within hours a Medical Center spokesperson had described his condition as: "Awake, aware and orientated."
"I don't know what happened," Golota said in his broken English. "Hard to understand what happened. Accident. Too much pressure, I guess. Too nervous. No excuses, I love to fight. But sorry."
What happened? Golota froze because some time prior to this fight, perhaps as long as four years ago when he was employed as a sparring partner for Lewis's defence against Frank Bruno, Lewis sent a shiver down his spine that will remain for as long as Golota lives. The challenger was beaten before a punch was thrown.
Golota arrived late at the Convention Center by police car, resulting in a 20-minute delay to the fight. His confused state of mind was reflected by his camp having requested a further 20 minute delay before he left the dressing-room, only for Golota to appear straight away, striding through the crowd of 13,889.
Golota's huge body of support erupted into cheers at the sight of him. Lewis thus entered a cauldron of hostility, but within seconds of arriving in the ring he had harnessed all the animosity and redirected it at Golota. Never had Lewis looked so focused. His body language drained all thoughts of victory from Golota. Lewis levelled a stare at his challenger that was cold, unerring and full of destructive intent. Lewis fully expanded his 6ft 5in, 17st 6lbs frame, raised his arms high in the air like some enraged bear, and marched to the centre of the ring.
Events of the previous week - when Main Events, the organisation that promotes both fighters, appeared to be favouring the challenger - had stirred feelings of resentment in Lewis. Within seconds of the start, Golota had given ground and before much longer a second punch salvo, finished by a bludgeoning right-hander, had dropped Golota in a heap by the ropes.
By instinct alone, the Pole got up, but staggered sideways across the ring. The fight should have been stopped inside the opening minute but somehow the referee, Joe Cortez, contrived to allow Golota more than 20 seconds to recover. But it would have taken all night. Five brutal, lightning- fast punches later and it was over. Maloney, resplendent in a Union Jack suit, lead the delirious celebrations in the ring.
"I'm still on a mission to unify the world title and there are two belts [The World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation championships) out there that I want," said the vindicated Lewis. "I'll go on until I'm satisfied and now I feel I'm truly ready to step up to the plate."
Norman Mailer once termed the young George Foreman "the very prodigy of power". The veteran Foreman has commented on many of Lewis's previous fights in the United States, invariably expressing the opinion that the Briton was a puncher who fooled himself into thinking he was a boxer. Now Mailer's prodigy has found an heir, as Foreman would surely recognise.