Boxing: Lewis to be given IBF belt after settlement

BRITAIN'S LENNOX LEWIS has been recognised as the undisputed world heavyweight champion after the resolution of a financial dispute between his backers and the International Boxing Federation.

"Thankfully, the lawyers representing us and the IBF have worked it out and Lennox is now recognised as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," Lewis's manager Frank Maloney said yesterday.

Lewis beat champion Evander Holyfield on a unanimous points decision in Las Vegas on Saturday in a unification fight for the undisputed heavyweight title. But he left the ring with only three of the four belts - the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council and International Boxing Organisation versions - after the IBF decided to withdraw theirs.

Bob Lee, the IBF president who pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of taking bribes to fix world rankings, said afterwards that he considered the IBF's title vacant following a dispute over a $300,000 (pounds 180,000) sanctioning fee. Lewis's camp had wanted to pay the money into escrow, because of the indictments against the IBF. His promoter Panos Eliades had argued that, with the IBF seemingly split, he did not know who should receive the cheque.

Lee replied by giving Lewis until Friday to pay the money or forfeit the IBF title. Maloney, who had posed for British newspapers holding the cheque to prove it had been written out, said the money had now been handed over and the dispute was over although Lewis had still not received the belt.

Mike Tyson, the former undisputed heavyweight champion, will return to the ring on Saturday, 15 January in either the United Kingdom or Germany. Tyson's opponent is yet to be named.

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