Boxing Lewis wins in spite of old faults

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Boxing

KEN JONES

reports from Dublin

If Justin Fortune displayed enough raw courage to take Lennox Lewis four rounds at The Point in Dublin last night and avoid being dismissed as another hopeless heavyweight import, predictably he was never able to provide the former World Council heavyweight champion with more than entertainment.

Although not the mismatch that had been widely predicted - nobody expected the Australian to go more than two rounds - there was always a clear sense of the inadequacy that the Australian brought to the ring.

He got himself into the fight by boring in beneath Lewis's jab and pummelling away to the body but serious disadvantages in height and weight were too much for him to be other than an open target once Lewis aroused himself sufficiently to make it an easy night's work.

However, the diffidence that Lewis showed in the opening two rounds - Fortune was entitled to assume that he took the first session if only through being more aggressive - will not have pleased his trainer, Emanuel Steward.

The shortcomings in technique and concentration that proved so costly when Lewis was relieved of the title by Oliver McCall last year have yet to be ironed out to Steward's satisfaction.

Maybe Lewis wanted more than the sort of work-out he is guaranteed in the gym but a heavyweight of his supposed class should have been doing cleaner and more effective work when the Australian was rushing forward in an attempt to catch him with roundhouse rights and the occasional uppercut. There was indeed the resemblance to Mike Tyson in the Australian's style but of course he did not remotely carry the same threat or sense of aggressive purpose. "It was a good stoppage," Lewis said after the referee, Roy Francis, terminated proceedings after 1min 48sec of the fourth round. "I didn't want to hurt him."

By then the contest was becoming increasingly painful for Fortune. Both his eyes were heavily bruised, blood was seeping from a cut in the corner of his right brow and he could no longer avoid the punches that Lewis drove in. Certainly he had no answer to four uppercuts that ripped into his head precipitating the stoppage that quickly followed.

The immediate future for Lewis rests with the legal procedures his connections will pursue if McCall goes ahead with the defence of the WBC crown against Frank Bruno on 2 September. That contest puts McCall beyond the period in which he was allowed to make two voluntary defences. "If McCall versus Bruno goes ahead then we intend to challenge it," said Lewis's manager Frank Maloney.

It might be more important at this stage to iron out the technical deficiencies that still show up in his man's boxing.

Steward said: "I was very happy with Lennox. He was relaxing and seemed to be having fun." This was not the conclusion reached at ringside in the first two rounds. But Steward added: "I give him 9 out of 10. Because he's so small (5ft 9in to Lewis's 6ft 5in) Fortune was a difficult opponent, more difficult than say Jorge Gonzales was for Riddick Bowe.

"I particularly liked the way Lennox knocked him out with those uppercuts from the inside. Those are very difficult punches for a tall man to execute. Mike Tyson and any other heavyweight would have gone down from those punches."

Steward's satisfaction was not felt by an audience of barely 2,000 many of whom came to the ringside when the contest was terminated to express their disenchantment with the activity.

Certainly, if Lewis finished Fortune off in the manner that was expected of him his work in the early stages suggests that there is still plenty to be done with him.

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