The year ahead: Boxing

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The Independent Online

There are more than 200 fighters wearing world title belts in the world at the moment and if they all started to meet each other the business would, for the first time ever, resemble a sport. Sadly it will never happen, but in 2002 there are a lot of good fights planned.

Lennox Lewis will fight once more before retirement when he meets Mike Tyson in Las Vegas on April 6 in what should have been the best fight of 1996. The veteran promoter Don King is trying to get a slice of the promotional pie but it looks far more likely that Lewis's company, Lion, and his American promoter, Main Events, will be in charge.

Naseem Hamed, beaten last April by the Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera, has promised to return in March but his refusal to seek a rematch with Barrera ruined his reputation and it will be a difficult year for the Sheffield fighter, if he has any pride left.

The Welshman Joe Calzaghe defends his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title against the former champion Charles Brewer in Cardiff on 9 February, while a week earlier, Manchester's Ricky Hatton returns to his home town for another defence of his World Boxing Union light-welterweight belt. Both boxers need unification fights in 2002.

The domestic scene will be dominated by a series of unification fights at several weights and by the end of February there will have been more televised fights – thanks to Sky's blanket coverage and BBC's continuing Audley Harrison freakshow – than in any one year in the 1960s or 70s. This is fact, not fantasy.

Prediction: Tyson and Hamed back on top in style.

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