The contest against Tony Tucker, who is managed by King, will now take place in Las Vegas on 8 May with all the added difficulties that holds for Lewis and Frank Maloney, his manager whose purse bid of dollars 8.1m on behalf of Championship Enterprises fell well short of the dollars 12.16m put in by King.
By a much narrower margin, only dollars 158,000, King, significantly, also saw off Main Events, the New York-based Duva organisation who obtained a promotional contract with Lewis before he knocked out Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock in London last November in a final eliminator for the WBC title.
Speaking from Mexico City after envelopes containing the purse offers had been opened at the WBC headquarters, Maloney said: 'I couldn't believe King's bid. I'm very happy for Lennox because it dwarfs the highest amount ever paid to a British boxer and is 50 per cent more than Riddick Bowe is getting to defend his titles.'
It was as a result of a refusal to defend immediately against Lewis, after taking the undisputed title from Evander Holyfield, that Bowe was stripped by the WBC, who then pronounced Lewis (it is strongly suspected in some quarters that they mistakenly expected Ruddock, a King fighter, to emerge as their challenger) as champion.
Having rejected an offer, worth upward of dollars 8m, that guaranteed an opportunity against Bowe after first taking an easy match, Lewis and Maloney were confident of consolidating status. But some anxiety was felt for them once King, who is close to Jose Sulaiman, the WBC president, made another attempt to regain a foothold in the divison he controlled until Mike Tyson was convicted of rape.
The obvious possibility then was that King, by far the most cunning of boxing promoters, would raise enough financial clout to gain what could prove to be a crucial edge for his man. He enlisted the aid of Steve Wynn, the owner of the vast Mirage Casino and Hotel complex in Las Vegas, who has provided a site fee in excess of dollars 7m. Further support is thought to have been promised by ITV and terrestrial European links.
Maloney, on discovering last week that Frank Warren, the London promoter, and representatives of ITV Sport had been with King, publicly complained that Warren was conspiring against him.
Even allowing for judgements that have sometimes tested the credulity of experienced ringside observers, Dan Duva does not believe that Lewis will be at a serious disadvantage in Las Vegas. 'Lewis could knock out Tony Tucker in Don King's backyard,' Duva said.
King said: 'This is the real heavyweight championship of the world. Lennox Lewis will be the biggest thing since black pepper. His name will be on the lips of every mother, every babe, every son.'
However, because Tucker is a durable heavyweight who has lost only one of more than 50 professional contests, and that on a decision against Tyson, some anxiety will be held out for Lewis.
It is already there in the words of Bowe's garrulous manager, Rock Newman. Earlier this week, Newman said: 'If Don King wins the bid, Lennox Lewis will need an Uzzi if Tony Tucker is still standing at the end of the contest.' Unfortunately for Lewis, that is not an isolated conclusion.
Bowe's mass appeal,
Hodkinson's plan, page 31