Whatever the disappointments of Lennox Lewis, there still seems to be something about him that holds up a mirror to the best and the worst of America.
When he was so outrageously jobbed out of the decision after out-boxing so thorougly Evander Holyfield in their first fight in New York in 1999, the nation was enraged. The New York newspapers screamed "Fix" and "It Stinks". Now it seems the statement made by his conqueror of earlier this year, Hasim Rahman, that Lewis's decision to enforce a re-match in the court was a "gay" thing to do has sparked similar disgust.
Rahman was briefly a hero after knocking out Lewis in Johannesburg, but after that remark – and the subsequent, much-hyped scuffle between the fighters in a television studio – he has surrendered much of his claim on American partiality before the re-match in November.
The best-selling author Thomas Hauser, who recently wrote with Muhammad Ali a treatise entitled Healing: A Journal of Tolerance and Understanding, is leading the charge.
He writes on the American boxing website, House of Pain: "Hasim may be stupid, but he's not that stupid. He has to know that his statement was an ugly, overtly bigoted taunt.
"Stan Hoffman [Rahman's manager] took advantage of a contract loophole and betrayed his friend, promoter Cedric Kushner, for monetary gain. Was that a 'Jewish thing' to do? Mike Tyson was convicted of rape. Was that a 'black' thing to do? Hasim says he's a devout Muslim. Was seeking to break his contract with Lewis a 'Muslim' thing to do?"
These are biting questions in a controversy that is bound to grow. One certainty is that it will not hurt ticket sales. Indeed, it is a reminder of the morning a promotional breakfast for a big fight broke into a ugly mêlée, with tables and chairs overturned, and ham and pancakes flying in the air.
"An unseemly affair," I suggested to the promoter, who is also in charge of the build up to Lewis-Rahman II.
"Yes, brother," he said, as the television cameras rolled, "but my heart is jumping for joy." Yes, you guessed: it was Don King.Reuse content