The IBF had given Lewis a deadline of Friday to pay the $300,000 (pounds 187,000) sanction fee to allow him to keep their version of the world title after the British boxer's camp refused to pay the fee before his fight in Las Vegas against Evander Holyfield. The money was paid yesterday. Holyfield had held the IBF and World Boxing Association titles, while Lewis was already recognised as champion by the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Association.
Frank Maloney, Lewis's manager, said last night: "I'm pleased that this has been sorted out. It's good for boxing and it's great that politics hasn't overshadowed Lennox's achievement."
Lewis's camp had refused to hand over the fee, because Robert Lee, the IBF president, and three others in the organisation have been charged in the United States with soliciting $338,000 in bribes. Lee appeared in court in New Jersey yesterday and pleaded not guilty to a 32-count federal racketeering indictment charging that rankings were rigged.
Lewis, Britain's first undisputed world champion in 102 years, wants to defend his titles in this country. The big business that engulfs heavyweight boxing has meant that 10 of Lewis's last 11 bouts have been in America, the exception being a non-title bout in Dublin in mid-1995. His last home fight was in September 1994 at the Wembley Arena when Oliver McCall inflicted his only professional defeat.
One possible venue for a defence is Wembley stadium with HBO, the American cable television network that payrolls Lewis's fights, agreeing to back a meeting with Michael Grant next spring if the New Yorker beats Poland's Andrew Golota in Atlantic City on Saturday.