Boxing: Lewis deafened by voices from outside the ring

Lennox Lewis versus Roy Jones is a preposterous idea, but then boxing once planned a collision between Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain, the giant basketball player.

It might have happened, too, if Ali hadn't unnerved his prospective opponent in the preamble to the press conference called to announce the fight. "Whatever you do, don't mock Wilt, it could blow everything," Ali was told. The great man nodded solemnly, but when Chamberlain came walking up to the stage, Ali couldn't resist. "Timber," he shouted. End of fight.

Lewis, who like Ali back then is in search of a meaningful opponent, is much more circumspect by nature and on the run-in to his fight with the Canadian Kirk Johnson in Los Angeles on 21 June he refuses to stamp out speculation that the brilliant but diminutive Jones might be in the opposite corner for a farewell show some time next year.

With the reluctance of Mike Tyson to take up his option on a clause for a re-match with Lewis the world heavyweight champion says, "Most definitely I've been thinking about retiring on a last big superfight - it could be Vitaly Klitschko - or Roy Jones."

So why is Lewis fighting the mediocre Johnson rather than the Ukrainian or Jones, who so entertainingly stripped down the reigning World Boxing Association champion John Ruiz earlier this year? "I believe I've proved all I need to," adds Lewis, "and to me Johnson is the best fighter out of the B-Class. I'm the only one in the A-class. Roy Jones is a remarkable boxer, but not a true heavyweight. Yes, Ruiz beat Johnson, but styles make fights. Lennox Lewis is the best, there is none higher. Jones should call me sire."

But Jones might just also call Lewis his ultimate meal ticket, and decide that in another year's time the undisputed master of the heavyweight division, at 39, might just be a little more vulnerable to outstanding speed and ringcraft.

Of course boxing careers shouldn't end like this, and especially great ones. Before he became mired in boxing politics, Lewis had a clear picture of his exit. He was going to win it all. He was going to track down the evasive Riddick Bowe, who he had beaten in the Seoul Olympics in 1988, then round up Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

It was all going to be so clean and conclusive. He would be around 30 at the time. Now, he is listening to the blandishments of those in his camp who, classically, don't want to see the end of the show. One tell-tale quote: "I said to my [conditioning] trainer Courtney Shand, 'I think I'm getting too old for this sport.' He said, 'You're not old yet. There's still a couple of years in you.' I listened to him and said, 'You're right.' I've still got a good year in me to take care of a couple of guys. I enjoy being a credit to boxing."

On Lewis's lips such rhetoric once had a blazing validity. Now it is trailing into self-parody. Once he represented the best of his game in his willingness to fight anyone out there. Now he is obliged to delve into the shadows to find someone who might just sell a ticket or two. Roy Jones would fill a hall with fans dying to shout "timber". It would be a curiosity more than a fight. As Lewis said, Jones is not a true heavyweight. But then what's truth got to do with it as Lennox Lewis listens to voices other than his own...voices from outside the ring.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: IT Projects Engineer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - OTE £60,000

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Inbound Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Inbound Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent