Why Lewis cannot rival Bruno

Ken Jones, in Atlantic City, on tomorrow's personality mismatch for the big fight
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The Independent Online
If charisma was critical to the outcome of tomorrow's heavyweight encounter between Lennox Lewis and Tommy Morrison here it would be a walkover for the rumbustious American.

Boxers are not obliged to be expert in communication but when questions are put to Morrison he is everything that Lewis is not. Fight writers use the phrase "totally focused" as another name for Lewis because he employs it time and time again when under interrogation. Also, it is safe to bet that the former World Boxing Council champion will describe himself as a man on a mission. If the promoters were relying on Lewis to drum up business they would find it a struggle to sell tickets.

You may think this irrelevant to proceedings in the ring but it helps to explain why Frank Bruno is far more popular than Lewis with the British public and Morrison is at present receiving most of the attention.

Speaking yesterday, Morrison confessed, appealingly, to behaviour that almost brought his boxing career to a premature conclusion. For example, after losing the World Boxing Organisation title to Michael Bentt it was more than two months before he got to bed earlier than five o'clock in the morning and always with female company. "I picked up girls everywhere," he said. "In bars, on the streets. I can't remember exactly how long that lasted but sure as hell it was spectacular. It seemed that whenever I picked up a newspaper or turned on the television a reporter was jumping on me."

If Lewis owned up to anything remotely similar people would fall off their chairs in astonishment. Totally focused he may be, but that doesn't make him interesting. Even if he succeeds in becoming the undisputed champion there won't be a parade as there was recently after Bruno defeated Oliver McCall for the WBC title.

This has nothing to with erudition but just plain old personality. Seeing Lewis go around with his head in the air causes some Americans to think him arrogant. "What's he got to be so high and mighty about," one said earlier this week when Lewis failed to show up on time for a press conference. "This is a guy who found a share of the championship in his mail, hasn't beaten anyone worth mentioning and was knocked out by Oliver McCall."

A topic guaranteed to get Lewis on his bike concerns possibilities resulting from the outcome of tomorrow's contest on America's eastern seaboard. If he hears reference to disputed status as the WBC's leading contender for Bruno's crown the interview is over, his expression disdainful. "Lennox doesn't want to speak about it," said his manager, Frank Maloney.

In London a short while ago Don King put it to Maloney that it would be best for Lewis to hook up with him. The suggestion was repeated this week when Lewis's principal associate, Panos Eliades, took the same flight to New York as King's partner, the British promoter, Frank Warren.

In alliance with the Duva organisation, Main Events, the Lewis camp want none of it and will institute legal proceedings if the WBC refuses Lewis a supposed right to meet Bruno for its version of the championship. "When they ranked Tyson at No 1 it didn't alter the fact that Lennox beat Lionel Butler in a final eliminator," Maloney added. "We have that in writing and the British Boxing Board are right behind us. The WBC can't get out of it." Tell that to King, who holds most of the cards in heavyweight boxing and has the WBC in his pocket.

Morrison would sign with King immediately. Thinking about the riches that would flow from a contest against Mike Tyson, he said: "I'm in this business to make money so King could have as many options on me as he wants." This was said in the knowledge that his prospects will improve no end if he defeats Lewis at the Convention Center in Atlantic City tomorrow.

One of the thoughts in Morrison's mind is that Lewis was a more dangerous proposition when coming in a stone lighter than his present weight of around 17st 7lb. "I think it's caused him to slow down," Morrison said. "He used to have better movement. Now he tends to fight along straight lines, which is to my advantage because I've got to try and get to him on the inside. I don't think the knockout by McCall made Lewis gun-shy, but I do see some anxiety in his boxing. No fighter likes to get hit, but he fights afraid. He's never been in a war but I've been in plenty. That's something for Lewis to think about."

When referring to his man, Lewis's trainer, Emanuel Steward, deals mainly in superlatives. Given half a chance, Steward goes on about vast improvements in technique and completeness in application. "Unquestionably, Lennox is the best heavyweight out there," he declared. "For such a big man he is amazingly quick."

Most of Lewis' sparring has been against much lighter men and when wearing gloves of more than 20 ounces, the heaviest ever used. "Imagine what Lennox will feel in his hands when he gets the ring gloves on," Steward added. "The speed will be phenomenal. I like Tommy Morrison but believe me, he won't last more than a few rounds. The kid is out of his depth."

Morrison smiled when he heard it. In dark eyes inherited from his mother, a full-blooded American Indian, there was a contradiction of the idea that he will soon lose all interest in tapping anybody on the chin.