James Lawton: Lewis has to resist strong call of the ring

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The Independent Online

So, as we might have guessed, Lennox Lewis appears to have been living through a brief phantom retirement.

So, as we might have guessed, Lennox Lewis appears to have been living through a brief phantom retirement.

Money was talking again and huge, at ringside in Los Angeles at the weekend. It was estimated that Lewis would earn $25m (£14m) if he stepped back into the ring with Vitali Klitschko, who hammered the poorly conditioned Corrie Sanders to eighth round defeat in the World Boxing Council title fight at the Staples Centre.

The problem is that it wasn't only money doing the talking. It was a lure we will probably never understand if we have never stepped into that island of light and drama which is the ring immediately before the first bell.

Muhammad Ali, in those poignant days that followed the end of his spell-inducing career, once memorably recalled the sense of that moment. "There are two guys going through the ropes, and the whole world wants to know, who's gonna win, who's gonna win. For a little while it's bigger than anything, bigger than a war, bigger than a presidential election. Of course it's over quickly, and then it's bit like having chased some pretty woman after slapping on the cologne. One minute it is the most important thing in the world, and then life carries on."

Another great champion, Sugar Ray Leonard, was discovered with a pensive look at the weigh-in of a fight between Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. "Do you wish you were up there on the stage, champ?" he was asked. "Yes, I do," said the newly retired Leonard. "I guess I'll never lose a desire for that feeling that comes for a big fight. What it is is that for a time you feel you're at the centre of the universe." We know where such longings took Leonard. It was to a terrible beating in Madison Square Garden by a young man he would have tied in excruciating knots a few years earlier.

Those of us who admire Lewis as a great champion, and a notably decent man, can only pray that he doesn't suffer a similar fate.

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