The night before was Friday at Caesars Palace here, when Michael Moorer brought further confusion to the heavyweight championship by outpointing Evander Holyfield for the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles.
In becoming the first southpaw champion in heavyweight history, Moorer put paid to a unifying bout between Holyfield and Lewis, who is defending the World Boxing Council belt against Phil Jackson on 6 May in Atlantic City.
Now Lewis finds himself confronted by the possibility that he may never get a crack at the undisputed title. 'I've thought about that,' he said. 'You get close to it, then something goes wrong. First Riddick Bowe wouldn't fight me, then this happens. It's frustrating because from what I saw on television Holyfield was there to be taken. After just a couple of rounds he was already gulping in air and I don't think he was getting much help from his corner. But what now? I can only hope that Moorer will want to fight me.'
Unfortunately for Lewis, Moorer seems to have no great urge to engage in activities of a unifying nature. Under the rules of the WBA and IBF, he is not required to fight until April next year. This is a bonus for new champions, enabling them to make voluntary defences against opponents whose ability does not match their ambition.
Interestingly, Moorer's trainer, Teddy Atlas, might consider Lewis in that category unless he makes a big impression against Jackson. 'I haven't got the final say in these matters,' Atlas said, 'but the Lewis who fought Frank Bruno and Tony Tucker would suit me as an opponent for Michael, sooner rather than later. We'll just have to see how he shapes up against Jackson and take things from there.'
Moorer, it seems, is in no great hurry to fight anybody and has little ambition to become the undisputed champion. 'I've achieved what I set out to do,' he said. 'I'm not here to please anyone but myself. This is a brutal business and all I'm thinking about is a rest and spending some time with my son.'
While all this was being said, Holyfield lay in hospital recovering from dehydration, nursing a strained left shoulder, six stitches in a cut to the side of his left eye. Friday turned out to be a bad night for him. One fight too many, probably his last.
Yet had one of the three judges, Jerry Roth, concurred with his colleagues who scored the second round for Holyfield on the strength of a knock-down, consequently arriving with Dalby Shirley at a draw, the title would not have changed hands. This elicited an official protest from Holyfield's manager, Shelly Finkel, in an attempt to secure the option of a re-match should Holyfield decide to continue boxing.
From the evidence this would be ill-advised. If Moorer's triumph was not of the by-a-distance variety, he badly hurt Holyfield, especially with stiff jabs. Clearly confused by the challenger's southpaw stance, never able to solve the problem, Holyfield looked beaten up before the contest had reached half-way. By the end of the fifth he looked an old man, wearily returning to his corner with blood streaming down the left side of his face.
People had doubted the advisability of amending Moorer's style, believing that his best chance rested with the power demonstrated to such startling effect in bars that he went to the ring while on bail. But it was the challenger's diligent application of his trainer's strategy that proved most crucial. 'I didn't look at it like Michael had a puncher's chance,' Atlas said. 'I wanted him to control the fight with the jab. If he didn't, his chances would be reduced to a knock-out and that's like the lottery.'
When knocked down in the second round, Moorer asked himself a question. 'What am I doing down here?' Stunned, not hurt. 'He'd put two punches together.'
This did not distract Moorer unduly. There was a plan and he stuck to it, remaining unflustered whenever Holyfield sought positions inside from which he could deliver short arms. And there was always the jab, the old trombone as they call it, banging into Holyfield's features so that they began to swell perceptibly.
By the end of the ninth some at ringside had Moorer well ahead, but this appeared to be an aberration on their part. As the official scorecards would show, it was close, close enough in Atlas's mind for him to call for a great effort. When Moorer returned to his corner he found Atlas sitting on the stool. 'You're getting slack,' Atlas snapped. 'If you don't want this then let's change places. I'll do the fighting.'
Suitably chastised, Moorer proceeded to go about his work with gusto. He clinched it by winning the 12th round clearly.
The future is something else. 'We're back to where we started,' said Seth Abraham, president of Time-Warner Sport, the heavyweight championship's pErincipal television funders. 'And there is another element. TyTHER write errorson. When these guys think Tyson they are thinking about a dollars 50m retirement fund.'Reuse content