Even in boxing, the ultimate separator of fact and fantasy, the line is being blurred. The conclusion was inevitable here in Los Angeles at the weekend when Vitali Klitschko, Lennox Lewis's opponent for Saturday's world heavyweight title fight, explained that part of his strategy would be drawn from the making of a film.
The big Ukrainian explained, "My brother Vladimir worked with Lennox on the movie Ocean's Eleven in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, and I was around at the time. They repeated their scene about 20 times. It was not a real fight, but the movements and stuff were the same, I was watching from the side. Vladimir is now helping me because he remembers how Lennox was working. He is helping me lots. For sure, we can use little bits that we learned on the movie set."
Are you really sure, Vitali? My own recall of that misapplied time in Lewis's life is that it was so unrepresentative of the champion at anything like his best, mentally or physically, that he would no doubt like to have it struck from the record.
In mid-shooting Lewis appeared at a press conference to hype his forthcoming fight with Hasim Rahman in South Africa, He'd come straight from the film set to mix with the fight crowd who had assembled to see Naseem Hamed parted from some of his own fantasies by the single-minded Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera. Lewis said that it wasn't a problem that he would get scarcely a fortnight's altitude acclimatisation in Johannesburg. He looked a good 20lbs over his best fighting weight. On a satellite hook-up, Rahman was in breezy, prophetic form. He said that Lewis was taking liberties with his situation, and that maybe he should assign himself permanently to work outside the ring. Lewis preferred to talk about the wondrous shape of Julia Roberts' lips.
Here, the good news is that Lewis is looking in excellent shape after hard weeks up in the Poconos Hills in Pennsylvania. Deep down, you have to suspect that he knows he shouldn't be fighting on. But given that, and his awareness that Klitschko, whatever his other limitations, carries a powerful punch that has brought 31 knock-outs in 32 fights, he does seem to be alert to the dangers of another pratfall to compare with the ones he suffered against Rahman and Oliver McCall.
He claims that his acceptance of the Klitschko fight at such short notice - the Ukrainian was training for an undercard fight when Lewis's original opponent Kirk Johnson pulled out with a chest injury - gives him the chance to show another aspect of his "greatness". "Why wait?" he asks. "This will show how great I am, how I can adjust. I'm a fighter who can deal with anything an opponent brings. Vitali has bit off more than he can chew. Here it is - full force. You should be careful for what you wish for - because sometimes you get it."
The tired, sad rhetoric of a fighter who has had the best of his days? You may say that, but there is, if you think about it, also a haunting touch of truth. But for those promptly avenged defeats by McCall and Rahman, fighters hardly fit to lace up Lewis's gloves, the champion would, despite his failure to excite the box office in his own right, be much more easily seen as someone who dominated the ring more completely than any heavyweight since Joe Louis. It will be something to remember amid the soulless canyons of an unexcited Downtown Los Angeles over these next few days.Reuse content