Boxing: Klitschko leads fight to find Lewis successor

Now that Lennox Lewis has finally let the grey in his dreadlocks dominate his stately appearance, the struggle to find his successor begins tonight.

Now that Lennox Lewis has finally let the grey in his dreadlocks dominate his stately appearance, the struggle to find his successor begins tonight.

During the next 14 days, eight boxers will contest the four respected heavyweight titles and first in the ring are Wladimir Klitschko and Lamon Brewster at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas tonight. Klitschko is the younger, and in the eyes of many experts the better, of the two towering Ukrainian brothers but his shattering knock-out loss to South Africa's Corrie Sanders last March almost ruined his career.

On that night Klitschko lost his World Boxing Organisation heavyweight title and for a variety of typical absurd boxing reasons he gets the chance to regain the same title against Brewster. Sanders was scheduled to defend against Brewster twice last year and both fights predictably fell through because the South African's shrewd management team had set their eyes on a much bigger prize and a few dollars more. The cautious approach of his backers worked and now Sanders, who is 38, will fight Wladimir's bigger brother Vitali, for the vacant World Boxing Council title on 24 April.

But first Brewster and Wladimir meet. Brewster's two defeats were due to lack of conditioning and Klitschko's two defeats were due to lack of resistance. If Klitschko has recovered from the Sanders loss he will win, but a motivated Brewster could make the fight interesting.

On 17 April at Madison Square Garden, New York, Don King puts on two heavyweight title fights but the white-haired veteran of a 100 skirmishes for sport's tainted prize is relying on five other world title fights to pack boxing's spiritual home.

King knows that his heavyweight quartet are not that good. Chris Byrd defends his International Boxing Federation version against Poland's Andrew Golota, whose previous appearance at the Garden ended in a riot after he deliberately fouled Riddick Bowe in 1996.

The other heavyweight fight at the Garden has John Ruiz defending the World Boxing Association version against Fres Oquendo in an all Puerto Rican clash. Ruiz lost the title last March to Roy Jones in a fight that brutally exposed the lumbering pretensions of Ruiz and a whole division of big men. Jones has since returned to light-heavyweight but the memory of his effortless exposé of Ruiz will linger for a long time.

The week after the two fights in New York, the most meaningful fight will take place in Los Angeles where Vitali Klitschko and Sanders meet. The form book suggests Klitschko will simply be too big and too good for Sanders but that was the case last year when the likeable South African was plucked from semi-retirement and matched against his younger brother.

He ruined the form book that night and could do the same again. It is a busy April but the rest of the year could get busier when Mike Tyson enters the mix.

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