Lennox Lewis back on home ground

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The Independent Online

Lennox Lewis proudly paraded his three title belts after arriving home triumphant today as Britain's first undisputed heavyweight champion this century.

Lennox Lewis proudly paraded his three title belts after arriving home triumphant today as Britain's first undisputed heavyweight champion this century.

The IBF trophy, which was not presented in the ring after his defeat of Evander Holyfield nine days ago because of a dispute over the sanction fee, was among his precious possessions, but now it is his WBA belt which could come under some pressure.

The champion's camp are not in favour of a WBA title defence against leading contender Henry Akinwande, who was disqualified for persistent holding in a mess of a fight against Lewis in 1997.

For that reason, it would be an extremely hard bout to promote. His manager Frank Maloney attended last week's World Boxing Association convention in Panama to try to put a hold on that fight.

"It's at a standstill at the moment," said Maloney. "The WBA have given us time to represent our case.

"They gave us a sympathetic hearing, and they were quite fair. They have not given us a deadline, but they want us to put our case again as quickly as possible."

Lewis faces a busy week, with a news conference fixed for tomorrow, a meet-the-fans day on Wednesday followed by a spot on the Ian Wright show on Friday - after making American television appearances last week which delayed his return to London.

Lewis, aged 34, could not promise his British supporters a long-awaited title defence in this country.

His last fight in Britain was back in September 1994 when Oliver McCall ripped away his WBC title, and apart from one non-title bout in Dublin, he has fought exclusively in America.

Lewis was met by a battery of television cameras and a crowd of around 100 Union Jack-waving fans when he emerged at Heathrow's terminal three.

The undisputed champion said: "It's something I've dreamt about, and I was glad to be able to do it.

"I've done something that hasn't been achieved for more than 100 years - and I have become Britain's first undisputed heavyweight champion of the century, and I feel great about it.

"I can't promise I'll defend the titles here, but it's something I'd love to do. The Americans make us go over there, and I'd like to bring them over here. Being undisputed champion sinks in more each day.

"The fans believed in me and I was able to come through, and I'd like to thank them for their support.

"For the next few days, I'd like to take it easy and go on a tour with the belts."

Britain's other undisputed heavyweight champion, Cornwall-born Bob Fitzsimmons, never came back to Britain.

As a nine-year-old, his family moved to New Zealand, and Fitzsimmons won the world title in Carson City, Nevada, by knocking out James J Corbett in the 14th round in March 1897.

He held the title for two and a quarter years before losing to James J Jeffries in Coney Island in June, 1899.

Lewis's unanimous points victory over Holyfield in Las Vegas came 102 years and 241 days after Fitzsimmons feat of winning the title.

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