Lewis jubilant as judge orders Rahman re-match

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Lennox Lewis was yesterday happily filling out a new dance card, one which could see him in the ring again as early as August for the re-match with Hasim Rahman that was ordered by a federal judge in New York on Thursday.

Lewis's American television backers, Home Box Office television, will table an offer of around $10m (£7.1m) to Rahman as soon as the court decides on the promotional claims of Don King and Cedric Kushner. That decision is expected early next week and Ross Greenburg, the chief executive of HBO, says: "We are delighted that Lennox Lewis's rights have been upheld and that he gets the chance to win back his world heavyweight titles. We are very excited about the possibilities of the re-match, which could be staged in August, late September or November.

"If the pace of negotiations is quick, it could go in August and it is an open market as to where the fight will be placed. We are expecting a lot of interest and the fight could happen anywhere in the United States."

The likeliest bet, though, is in Las Vegas on 29 September ­ the last available television slot for a major fight before the onslaught of World Series baseball.

Lewis, distraught at the loss of his World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles amid criticism that he had underprepared for the fight at altitude in Johannesburg in April, where Rahman won with a sensational knock-out, is jubilant about the outcome of his $1m lawsuit. He said: "I'm very pleased and gratified that the judge has upheld my right to fight for the heavyweight title. It's unfortunate we had to go to court to uphold a very clear right I had. I've won the first round in court and now I will do it again in the ring when I meet Rahman later this year."

Rahman was downcast when he left the New York courtroom after being ordered to fight Lewis ­ or not engage in any other contest for 18 months. Before legal action was brought, he turned down a $20m offer for the re-match. Now he will have to settle for no more than half of that, plus the abandonment of his scheduled defence of the titles against the Nigerian David Izon in Beijing in August. It is the price he pays for being lured into the King camp, partly with the assistance of an army knapsack filled with $100 notes.

For Lewis, the prospect is of huge earnings in the final phase of his career if he can overturn the Johannesburg result in an American ring.

Negotiations for a two-fight deal with Mike Tyson are now on hold, but Greenburg confirmed his hopes that they will indeed result in Lewis-Tyson fights once Lewis has recovered his champion status. The best guess on the date of a first Tyson fight is sometime in February.

A prerequisite for such a bonanza for Lewis, though, is a far more thorough fight preparation than the one which marked his disastrous fifth-round knock-out in Johannesburg.

The New York judge, Miriam Cedarbaum, spelled out the need for Lewis to win back his old levels of fitness. In delivering her verdict, Judge Cederbaum said: "The 35-year-old Lewis would have been irreparably harmed if Rahman was permitted to breach his contract. Lewis's powers as a boxer will be diminishing over the next two years."

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