Boxing: Lewis wins another fight that wasn't

Glyn Leach
Saturday 12 July 1997 23:02
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Last night's World Boxing Council heavyweight title fight in Lake Tahoe, between Lennox Lewis and Henry Akinwande, was projected as the antidote to all things Tyson after the madness that followed events two weeks ago in Las Vegas. It didn't work out that way.

For the second fight in succession, the referee, Mills Lane, was forced to issue a disqualification when, in the fifth round and after points deductions and repeated warnings for holding, Akinwande, the challenger, was thrown out.

There was scant likelihood that Lewis and Akinwande, London-born 31-year- olds with reputations for caution and conservatism, would produce fireworks or controversy. But boxing shot itself in the foot again, even if the injury is not as damaging as when Tyson savaged Evander Holyfield.

Lewis, lighter than of late at 17st 4lb, started fast and Akinwande (16st 13.5lb), the 6ft 7in former World Boxing Organisation champion, was soon intimidated by the champion's power. He had no defence but to grab and maul. Referee Lane made his first point deduction from Akinwande as early as the second round. Akinwande's sole contribution, almost a telling one, was a right-hander in round three which forced Lewis to touch down with his right glove. But no count was given and Lewis continued to pile on the pressure. Several times Lane told Akinwande to clean up his act, but to no avail.

Once again, a Lewis victory is overshadowed. When he regained the WBC championship in March, the headlines centred on the astonishing manner of Oliver McCall's fifth-round capitulation - the psychologically troubled American refused to defend himself. And despite becoming the first man to beat Akinwande in 34 fights, Lewis's win now becomes meaningless.

"Boxing was looking at this fight to clean up its image," Lewis said. "I'm terribly disappointed. He obviously didn't want to fight. All he wanted to do is hold."

Were Lewis, now victorious in 31 of 32 fights, to go on to unify the heavyweight titles, the likelihood is that he would not be accepted as the world's leading heavyweight unless he could beat Tyson - banned for at least a year. Once more Lewis finds himself in a no-win situation.

Lewis, who earned around $2m, is on the wrong side of the promotional divide to figure in the biggest-money fights; his rival champions, like Akinwande (who received $1.2m) and Tyson, are promoted by the Don King-Frank Warren alliance. Lewis might well be the best heavyweight in the world, but proving it is a problem.

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