Lennox Lewis knows where he stands, even if the courts disagree.
"I don't care what they say, I'm still the undisputed champion," Lewis said.
No, he isn't. A US federal judge ordered that Lewis give up the WBA heavyweight title if he fights Michael Grant on April 29 in Madison Square Garden.
The 33-year-old Briton, however, remains to many in boxing the real heavyweight champion.
"I wasn't surprised but I was disappointed," said Lewis, who remains the WBC and IBF champion and who will fight the unbeaten Grant.
"When a guy punches me in the ring, do I get angry?," Lewis said today in a conference call. "No, I just roll with the punches."
He plans to roll with the judicial punch by appealing the decision.
Lewis added the WBA and IBF titles to the WBC championship he already held by winning a unanimous decision over Holyfield on November 20. The two had fought March 13, 1999, and the decision was a draw, although most thought Lewis had won.
Promoter Don King, who sued Lewis, plans to have top-ranked John Ruiz and second-ranked Holyfield fight for the WBA title.
"King said he had a letter from the WBA that they wouldn't sanction it (Holyfield-Grant) unless we agreed to fight Henry Akinwande or the leading available contender," said Milton Chwasky, a lawyer representing Lewis.
So, Chwasky said, he had put into the contract for a Lewis-Holyfield rematch contract - over King's objections - a paragraph that stated that Lewis would fight Akinwande or the No 1 contender, "consistent with the rules of the WBA."
The WBA ruled in March that it would sanction a Lewis-Grant fight as long as Lewis agreed to make a mandatory defense against the highest available contender. Chwasky said Lewis did agree.
Akinwande was the No 1 contender when he was scheduled to make a mandatory challenge against then WBA champion Holyfield in June 1998. The fight fell through when Akinwande contracted hepatitis. Akinwande has fought only twice since, winning both bouts. Lewis defended the WBC title in 1997 against Akinwande, who was disqualified in the fifth round for holding.
Akinwande is ranked ninth by the WBA.
Kaplan ruled that Lewis knew he got his opportunity to fight Holyfield by making a deal with King in which he promised his next fight would be a mandatory defense against the leading WBA challenger. But he then signed to fight Grant, who is not in a mandatory challenger's position, being ranked only No 5.
Chwasky said once the appeal is filed, the court could block a Holyfield-Ruiz fight until a ruling is made. If the fight is allowed to be held, the winner would no longer be champion should Lewis win the appeal.
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