Boxing: Lewis to inherit version of world title

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The Independent Online
AS THE result of Riddick Bowe's predictable refusal to put up the undisputed heavyweight championship against him, Lennox Lewis has settled for becoming the first British-born boxer this century to gain at least a version of the title.

It became clear last night that Lewis does not figure in two defences Bowe has signed for with Home Box Office, the American cable television network, and will be awarded the World Boxing Council championship on 11 January in London. 'It's not the way I wanted to do it, and I think Riddick has taken the easy way out,' Lewis said last night from Jamaica, where he is on holiday.

Lewis, who acquired the status of official WBC challenger when overwhelming Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock in a final eliminator at Earls Court last month, will be permitted a voluntary defence, probably against Alex Stewart in the United States next March, but will then be required to risk the title against Tony Tucker.

As Tucker is managed by Don King, who lost control of the heavyweight division when Mike Tyson was jailed for rape and is influential in WBC affairs, this is far from the best Lewis was hoping for. However, nothing has come of attempts to persuade Bowe and his connections that they should honour an agreement to meet the winner of Lewis and Ruddock, this becoming of great embarrassment to the WBC when Ruddock, a fighter connected to King, was knocked out in the second round.

In London to appear at last night's BBC Sports Review of the Year, Bowe and Rock Newman, his manager, will attend a press conference this morning, but the plans appear complete. He will defend first against Alex Garcia, a California-based heavyweight, on 6 February, possibly at Madison Square Garden in New York, and then against Ray Mercer in April.

It leaves Lewis and Frank Maloney, his manager who has been attempting to provoke Bowe with insults, most ludicrously greeting him at Heathrow Airport with men dressed as chickens, to formulate a campaign that may not result in a unifying contest until 1994.

This week they will meet with Seth Abraham, the chief executive of HBO and TVKO, whose funding on the basis of pay-per-view television is now central to the heavyweight championship. Hence Lewis's first defence for the WBC cannot possibly take place in Britain.

Prime movers in all this (romance is no currency in professional boxing) are Main Events, the Duva organisation which holds options on Bowe and Lewis through the promotion of Evander Holyfield, the former heavyweight champion.

What can probably be assumed is that Lewis and Maloney were resigned to the course Bowe was taking when hinting last week that they were prepared to challenge him without pushing for a substantial purse.

Neither are they guaranteed to achieve parity if and when Bowe and Lewis come together in a unifying contest for the championship. All sorts of possibilities spring to mind, not the least being that Mike Tyson will dramatically enter the proceedings if attempts to overturn his conviction prove successful.

As for status, Lewis as the WBC champion will not mean much in the minds of American pay-per- view subscribers. For them, Bowe is the man who beat the man, who beat the man, who beat the man.

Benn's screen test, page 27