Boxing: Lewis is crowned as Bowe hits out: World Boxing Council comes under fire over first British-born world heavyweight champion this century

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The Independent Online
LENNOX LEWIS became the first British-born fighter this century to hold at least a version of the world heavyweight championship when the World Boxing Council reacted immediately yesterday to a resounding attack by Riddick Bowe.

Before Lewis was accorded its title last night, the WBC came under fire from Bowe, who derided its pledge to strip him for refusing to meet Lewis in a first defence of the undisputed championship he took from Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas last month.

Dropping the gaudy WBC belt into a waste bin at a news conference yesterday in London, Bowe, reading from a prepared statement, said: 'The WBC is wrong and I will not be intimidated by them. I am the heavyweight champion of the world and today I am withdrawing my recognition of them.

'As the undisputed, undefeated, universally accepted champion, I reject, renounce, repudiate and totally dismiss the unfair. . . actions of the WBC and its president, Jose Sulaiman. They aren't stripping me. I'm stripping them because of their refusal to meet the mandatory standards of fair play in sport. For as long as I'm the champion I will not recognise, defend or fight for their dishonoured belt.'

Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, was even more viciously dismissive of the WBC, and insisted that the champion had not reneged on a signed pledge to defend first against Lewis if he took the title from Holyfield. Referring to recent meetings in New York, and naming Dan Duva, of Main Events, as a considerable witness, Newman said: 'Two offers were made to Lewis and his manager, Frank Maloney. The first was for dollars 3m ( pounds 2m, 10 per cent of the projected take, which is what Bowe accepted against Holyfield) plus possible percentages. We then suggested an easy fight for dollars 2.3m and a guaranteed dollars 9m to challenge for the title.

'Maloney wanted to think about those offers and it was agreed that nothing would be said publicly. Instead, Maloney called news conferences as soon as he returned to London. He set out to ridicule Bowe, but we haven't heard anything from him.'

Duva, with promotional options on both men, was keen for the contest to take place, believing it to be an attractive proposition for pay- per-view subscribers because of the controversial success Lewis gained over Bowe in the 1988 Olympic final. 'But I told Duva that unless Maloney quickly showed some interest in the offers we'd have to move in another direction.'

Lewis, on holiday in Jamaica, made no comment on the dispute, saying only: 'I will miss the glory of beating him (Bowe) in the ring, but I will still be the champion.'

As Newman denounced the WBC, criticising its dealings with Don King, who lost control of the heavyweight division when Mike Tyson was jailed, Maloney stood silently at the back of the room, a man clearly outmanoeuvred in the rough world of professional boxing.

Newman did not let up. 'After Mike Tyson lost the championship to 'Buster' Douglas in Tokyo, when he was so clearly knocked out that he crawled around the ring, didn't the WBC go into a huddle with King and then try to maintain that Tyson was still the champion?'

Things are never quite what they seem in boxing and can change from day to day, but out of yesterday's proceedings comes the possibility that Bowe and Lewis will never be seen in the same ring.

Newman confirmed that Bowe will make his first defence, probably against Alex Garcia, one of two contests he has signed for with Home Box Office and TVKO, the cable and pay-per-view networks, on 6 February. The champion, who may be close to agreeing a career- long deal with HBO, will make two further defences in 1993 but not against Lewis.

Lewis, fulfilling part of on obligation to Main Events and HBO, will defend the WBC title in the United States next March. 'It's time people in Great Britain realised that Lennox is not yet a big draw over there,' Newman added.

As the WBC champion, Lewis will be the first man to gain the title by default since Ken Norton in 1978, when Leon Spinks was stripped for taking a return contest against Muhammad Ali. The championship was fragmented for nine years until Mike Tyson unified it by beating Trevor Berbick (WBC), James 'Bonecrusher' Smith (WBA) and Tony Tucker (International Boxing Federation).

With the possibility that Tyson's conviction for rape will be overturned, it is highly possible that Newman had him in mind even before Bowe beat Holyfield. Whoever has the championship when Tyson is released will be looking at a phenomenal purse. 'Start at dollars 150m and count upwards,' an American source said last night.

(Photograph omitted)