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Politics fail to spoil Lennox's party

Lennox Lewis's 6,000-strong army of fans celebrated long into the night in Las Vegas, oblivious to the fact that Britain's first undisputed world heavyweight champion of the century was already minus the IBF belt.

Lennox Lewis's 6,000-strong army of fans celebrated long into the night in Las Vegas, oblivious to the fact that Britain's first undisputed world heavyweight champion of the century was already minus the IBF belt.

But would they really have cared?

Lewis had proved himself as the premier heavyweight on the planet by unanimously outscoring WBA and IBF champion Evander Holyfield in their 30million re-match, and nobody could dispute the fact.

The material award of a trophy was not vital at that magic moment because morally and physically Lewis's coronation was complete in the minds of his supporters and boxing worldwide.

The belt, brought into the ring by Holyfield, was rushed away by the IBF supervisor Walter Stone after a row over the 300,000 sanction fee, instead of regaling Lewis's waist, to spark yet another big-fight controversy.

It is believed that the troubled International Boxing Federation will make a statement this week, and nobody would really be surprised if they declared the title vacant, an action which if taken, would further harm that organisation's suffering credibility.

The political storm, which sadly took some of the gloss from Lewis's crowning achievement, brewed in the hours before the fight.

The Lewis camp was happy they had come to an "amicable" agreement with the IBF, only for it to collapse a minute before the first bell at the Thomas and Mack Centre once instructions had come from a "higher authority".

The big, amiable Lewis obviously wants his rightful possession returned, but for the moment he is just enjoying being king of his universe, and will leave it to the lawyers to spar with the alphabet men.

The problem surrounds the profit-making and non-profit-making organisations of the IBF, and the agreement reached was that the fee would be held in escrow until the situation was resolved within 45 days, before eventually going to the "approved" IBF.

"You will find that the IBF's non profit-making charter lapsed several years ago, but was only re-instituted within the last week," said Patrick English, lawyer-head of Lewis's American promoters Main Events.

"So before last week there was no non profit-making organisation - although the world thought there was - into which pay the money.

"Whoever has got the belt has got to give it back to Lennox," said Lewis's manager Frank Maloney.

"There were two fighters in there giving their all for boxing, and it was a night when boxing was the winner for a change. It was nothing to do with boxing, it is an organisation making the chaos."

The way ahead for Lewis could be a mega-fight with Mike Tyson who, despite events of recent years, remains a major name.

And a third bout with Holyfield cannot be ruled out; Lou Dibella, an executive of cable network Home Box Office, would personally like to see a "rubber" match.

"Tyson is out there and hopefully we can get the fight made. Boy, yes I'd welcome the chance to box Tyson. I'd definitely fight him," said Lewis.

"This time around was different because Evander was doing different things. He was trying to steal the rounds, not doing much at the beginning but more at the end.

"I was closer than in the first fight because I wanted to get more punches off. But Evander's defence was good.

"It's a great feeling to be undisputed champion, it's been ten years of effort. I've been through trials and tribulations, different dramas and politics. Now I've finally succeeded in my mission.

"I'm going to sit back and relish the moment, but I'm willing to take on all-comers. I'd love to box everyone in my era.

"After what I've been through, I've won the belts but I can't look back and be bitter. Now is the time to be happy as I am now undisputed world heavyweight champion of the whole world. It doesn't get any bigger than this.

"Styles make fights and in some parts of the fight I did show my aggression and pushed Evander back into the ropes. I finally did it and now I'm bringing the belts back home".

Lewis took the verdict clearly, thought ringside opinion made the re-match closer than the Nevada officials.

Judge Jerry Roth carded 115-113, Chuck Giampa 116-112 and Bob Graham 117-111.It was certainly a better fight than the New York affair, but a more absorbing than great contest.

For the Lewis-Maloney association, the major prize was achieved ten years and 139 days after Lewis made his British debut.

It was a double-triumph night for Maloney, with his featherweight Paul Ingle taking the IBF title from Manuel Medina in Hull.

The 15,000 IBF sanction fee for that fight was also paid in escrow, but no problem resulted and Ingle went home with his belt.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," added Maloney, soon to begin his campaign to become Mayor of London.

"I've made it in Britain as a manager. But on the world stage, apart from Lennox, I've taken other fighters to title fights and they've lost. I was beginning to think I was going to be a nearly man."

Next stop for Maloney will be Panama to attend next week's World Boxing Association convention in the hope of getting Lewis-Holyfield recognised as the WBA mandatory, instead of being ordered to fight their number one Henry Akinwande for a second time.

In 1997, Akinwande was disqualified for continually wrestling Lewis in Lake Tahoe.

A re-match would be dreadfully hard to promote or sell to pay-per-view customers.

But the situation could become difficult for Lewis if the WBA take a stubborn stance.