Lewis bids to avoid Akinwande

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The Independent Online

Lennox Lewis' advisers are stepping up the fight to wriggle out of an unwanted second engagement with master grappler Henry Akinwande.

Lennox Lewis' advisers are stepping up the fight to wriggle out of an unwanted second engagement with master grappler Henry Akinwande.

The world heavyweight champion technically faces three mandatory defences now that he holds WBA, WBC and IBF versions of the crown.

And a meeting with Akinwande, the WBA's number one contender who was disqualified for holding against Lewis in 1997, is the most pressing.

But Lewis' manager Frank Maloney is putting pressure on the WBA to relax its rules because Lewis v Akinwande II is quite simply a fight which nobody wants to see.

"I don't think they (the WBA) want the fight, they think it's a bad fight," said Maloney, who has faxed the governing body to remind them that Akinwande had his purse withheld after the first meeting, such was the debacle of his effort.

"But it's a position they have been put in by a court order. Our lawyers (Lewis' in America) are going into court to seek a ruling and see if they can get it overturned."

The court order was actually made for Orlin Norris to challenge Evander Holyfield, then the WBA champion.

But Akinwande beat Norris on points in a final eliminator in late 1997 to jump to the front of the queue.

He was due to meet Holyfield in the summer of 1998 but contracted hepatitis and the fight was called off one day before the fight.

The WBA are unlikely to reach a decision before Christmas, despite the best efforts of Maloney, who has just returned from their conference in Panama.

Still, Lewis is in something of a no-lose situation because even if he were eventually stripped of his WBA title, that belt would be fairly worthless by comparison and Lewis' position as the world's number one heavyweight would remain intact.

It is a position Lewis' trainer Emanuel Steward believes he will capitalise on in 2000.

"He's still not shown us his best fight to date. And that's something we can all look forward to - and we've got a new century coming up," said Steward.

"Lennox is the most talented heavyweight I've ever seen. I think we are going to see Lennox move to a new level in the next year.

"Unfortunately, there are not too many superstars around. Boxing is in a state of flux, and being undisputed champion is a very great position to be in. Lennox can only beat the men of his era, there's no Muhammad Ali, no Kenny Norton.

"In the new century, Lewis is going to be a star. I'd like to see him fight three or four times a year instead of twice. Michael Grant and David Tua are two young names, but Lennox could knock them both out in six months.

"Lennox has an unbelievable talent, and becoming undisputed champion is an honour particularly in today's times. He's the most dedicated fighter I've ever trained."

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