Boxing: Lewis needs to leave a lasting impression on Jackson: WBC heavyweight champion under pressure to deliver destructive performance tonight. Ken Jones reports from Atlantic City

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT WILL be for more than just personal satisfaction if Lennox Lewis sets out to achieve a spectacular victory tonight in the defence of the World Boxing Council championship.

In Lewis's mind as he prepares to face the challenger, Phil Jackson of Miami, at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, there is a nagging awareness of the need to gain acceptance as a convincing force in the division.

A dangerous priority was made clear to Lewis this week by Dan Duva of Main Events, the New York-based organisation that holds him to a promotional contract along with Michael Moorer, the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion since defeating Evander Holyfield two weeks ago. 'Moorer holds the heavyweight title,' Duva said, emphatically. 'Whatever Lennox and his people think, that's the way things stand, so there is a lot at stake in this contest.'

Lewis's rumoured disenchantment with the Duvas, on the basis that he is being strung along, adds to a dilemma raised by the two defences he has made since gaining the WBC title by decree. In Lewis's mind it was enough to gain a decision over Tony Tucker and knock out Frank Bruno, but flaws evident in those victories explain why he is not held in the highest regard in America.

As it is considered inadvisable for a fighter to enter the ring with more on his mind than an obvious priority, Lewis is under more than normal pressure. 'The important thing is to keep my title,' he said. 'When two heavyweights get together anything can happen, so you don't want to take unnecessary risks. I'm going in with a guy who has more knock-outs on his record than I've got wins. I don't think I've got anything to prove. I'm the best man out there.'

The truth, however, means different things to different people, which is why Lewis will be expected to concentrate his mind on a destructive performance. 'Lennox needs to look special,' Duva added, 'and of course, that applies as much to Jackson. What they are both looking at is a unifying contest with Moorer. Because the winner in this one will have to make a mandatory defence against Oliver McCall, I don't see it happening before the spring of next year, but it's there for both of them.'

With Jackson available at long odds in the betting, Lewis is not thought to be under any great threat, so it becomes important for him to go about the task explosively and provide evidence of improvement.

While he brings plenty of natural power to the ring, Lewis can look amateurish, as he did against Bruno until taking advantage of an opening in the seventh round.

Clearly, this has registered with Jackson's trainer, Pat Burns, the Vietnam veteran and much-decorated Miami policeman whose cool appraisal of the situation provides a dignified contrast to the juvenile ranting of Lewis's chief corner man, Pepe Correa. 'That's Pepe's way,' Burns said, 'and I want nothing to do with it. He gives boxing a bad name with all that silly stuff, the boasting and the predictions.'

Neither does Burns go along with the notion that Jackson fully revealed his true nature two years ago when choosing to be counted out on one knee against Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock. The convincing analogy was that of stark memories from Vietnam. 'In their first fire- fights guys dropped their rifles and filled their pants,' he said. 'But those same guys came good, proving themselves to be as brave as anybody. I'm convinced that applies equally to Philip. The Ruddock thing was a one-off, something that came about through frustration. Philip has everything to go for and he's going for it. Sure, we were happy to take the short end of the purse (dollars 567,000 to Lewis's dollars 4m) but this is not a time to think about the money. That can wait.'

Waiting has become an occupational hazard for Lewis. 'We seem to have been waiting for ever,' said his manager, Frank Maloney, whose slightly whingeing logic is given scant attention on the Jersey shore. 'We were kept waiting by Riddick Bowe, we waited to fight Holyfield. Now it's Moorer. How long do we have to wait before Lennox gets the opportunity to prove that he is the real champion?'

Understandably, in many minds the real champion resides in a prison cell, the convicted rapist, Mike Tyson, who confirmed his intention to resume boxing when interviewed this week on television.

There is little sense in Duva's contention that Tyson was no longer the best heavyweight around when the verdict reached by a jury in Indiana went against him. The fact of Tyson's release early next year hovers over proceedings in the heavyweight division, making it more imperative for Lewis to look the part against Jackson.

With distinct advantages in height and weight, Lewis can be expected safely to negotiate this latest test of his capabilities. But more, much more is required of him. He knows it. He also knows Jackson has knocked out 27 of 31 professional opponents. Thus the dilemma.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TALE OF THE TAPE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Lewis Jackson 28 Age 29 E London Born Miami 16st 11lb Weight 15st 8lb 6ft 5in Height 6ft 0in 84in Reach 77in 44in Chest 45in (norm) 46in Chest 46 1/2 in (exp) 17in Biceps 18in 15in Forearms 15in 34in Waist 36in 26in Thigh 27in 18in Calf 18in 18 1/2 in Neck 18 1/2 in 8in Wrist 8 1/2 in 12in Fist 12 1/2 in -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photographs omitted)