| November 14, 1999
LEWIS DECISIONS IMPROVED HOLYFIELD
by Chris Bushnell
With boxing’s popularity once again sinking close to record lows, perhaps the
most encouraging news to come out of Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis’
rematch to unify the heavyweight title was that the sport survived. There
was no controversy, no unjust decision, no bizarre turn of events that would
once again call to question the legitimacy of the game. At a time when
boxing can’t seem to do anything right, there was a great sense of relief
when nothing went wrong.
Heading into this contest, there was no end to the preventative measures
taken to minimize controversy. Judges were supplied by the Nevada State
Athletic Commission instead of the sanctioning bodies. The fighters, who
wore separate styles of gloves in their first meeting, were forced to
compromise on a single brand. Coins were flipped to determine ring entrances
and fighter announcements. When the opening bell finally rang, it was as it
should be: up to the fighters themselves.
Evander Holyfield wasted no time in demonstrating his new wares: a renewed
jab, increased energy, and effective aggression. In the first round,
Holyfield set the pace, freely exchanging sticks with the longer armed Lewis.
It was an inspiring beginning, because it promised what all boxing fans
yearned for: a competitive fight.
Despite Lennox Lewis’ pre-fight claims that he would seek a knockout of the
aging warrior, his game plan looked startlingly similar to his first
performance. When Lennox Lewis got his jab working in the second frame, and
Holyfield was kept at the end of it, Lewis seemed content to stay on the
outside and play it safe. Eschewing the attack that trainer Emanuel Steward
begged for, Lewis was content to box, and when Evander let him, it worked
But in this bout, Evander didn’t always let Lennox have his way. In the
third round, Holyfield sat outside Lewis’ reach eating pawing jabs and
frequent, but unimpressive pot shots. Rallying late, however, Holyfield
snatched the round away when a desperate overhand right caught Lewis below
his left ear, and brought the crowd to it’s feet. Following up with four
clean head-snapping punches before the bell, Holyfield returned to his corner
confident that he could put his hands on Lewis and turn the tide.
Lewis returned in the fourth and fifth rounds with enough jabbing and moving
to prevent Holyfield from committing to an attack. But as Lewis was having
an easy time of it, his lack of aggression allowed Holyfield to bank some
crucial body work. Pumping a firm jab into Lewis’ chest and clubbing
Lennox’s sides in the clinches, Holyfield began wearing down the big man.
This unspectacular tactic was effective as Lewis ate occasional left hooks
and right crosses from Holyfield that, while not enough to win the rounds,
kept the fight close. Lewis’ answer to Holyfield was to fill in the spaces
between attempts with punches and clinches. It worked, but Lewis was tiring.
After five rounds of tactical but unexciting maneuvers, Lewis seemed winded
and inexplicably took the sixth round off. Matching Holyfield’s inactivity,
Lewis let Evander back in the fight with this respite. As Holyfield
continued to thrust his left into Lewis’ sternum, Lewis’s hands dropped and
his mouth hung open. Betraying the conditioning that had brought him in at a
fit 242 lbs., Lewis lucked out, as Holyfield let him lean on the ropes and
rest without attacking. At the end of halfway point, both fighters returned
to corners that were outraged with their behavior.
Before the seventh round began, Emanuel Steward begged Lewis to step up his
attack. At a time when Lewis’ jab was winning him unspectacular rounds, a
stepped up aggression seemed to lend itself to a Holyfield rally. Sure
enough, when Lewis charged Holyfield to begin the seventh, Holyfield gladly
returned fire. As the fighters freely exchanged for the first time, it was a
Holyfield left hook that caught Lewis flush and sent him into retreat across
the ring. As Lewis lumbered around on weakened legs, Holyfield pursued,
smiling at his own good fortune. Letting his hands go, Holyfield chased
Lewis down, snapping his head left and right with well timed power punches.
Lumbering from one corner to another, Lewis was looking for a breather, and
again was visibly hurt by a crunching Holyfield hook. The Las Vegas crowd
that had booed Holyfield on introduction was now cheering wildly. Finally a
fight had broken out.
The eighth continued where the previous round left off. Holyfield again
staggered the giant WBC champion with a left hook, and another miracle seemed
to be happening before our eyes. Written off by critics as too old, too
small and past his prime, Holyfield looked like the younger man as he fired
punches that hurt, but never toppled, the fatigued Lewis. Through his
exhaustion, Lewis found a home for his right uppercut in this round.
Although his underhanded bomb had made cameos in several previous rounds,
Lewis finally stemmed the tide by catching Holyfield through the gloves.
This tactic slowed Holyfield enough to give Lewis the round, although
Holyfield again rallied with clean combinations to end the frame.
With the fight too close to call, the ninth round began at a slower pace.
Holyfield, whose punching had topped out in the previous two stanzas, now
looked to pick his spots more carefully down the stretch. Lewis looked for a
second wind and a way to reverse the momentum. Again the Lewis uppercut
saved him, as a particularly furious blast banged Evander’s chin and shook
him to the bone. Holyfield now held on, buying time to recover. As Lewis
followed up with some wincing body blows of his own and a few good right
hands, Holyfield fired back and again the two stood toe to toe in the center
of the ring. It was Lewis who came out on top this round, and firmly
returned control of the bout.
Having hurt Holyfield enough to keep him at a distance, Lewis again began
boxing effectively. No longer standing still, Lewis circled Holyfield and
kept landing the uppercut. For his part, Holyfield continued firing his jab,
landing it frequently and effectively, while Lewis’ own jab was nearly non
existent. But landing little more than jabs and occasional body shots,
Holyfield was not offering enough to win the round. When this pattern
repeated in the eleventh, Holyfield found himself behind the eight ball,
needing a knockout in the final round.
To his credit, Holyfield gave it his all. Charging Lewis in the final round,
he quickly turned Lewis’ skull left and right with hooks and crosses. As the
crowd chanted "Holy-field! Holy-field!", Evander tried in vain to engage
Lewis in one more exchange. Lewis would have none of it, tying up Holyfield,
backing away from his aggression, and eating a number of blows that were
good, but not good enough as the final bell eventually ended the contest.
Having put together a solid string of late rounds, Lewis appeared to have won
a close but definitive decision. Still, the fight was now once again in the
hand of three boxing judges, and boxing fans held their breaths as another
draw or split decision loomed over a fight with many close rounds.
After some delay, there was an audible sigh released from the crowd as Jimmy
Lennon proclaimed that the judges had reached a unanimous decision. Boxing
would finally have a unified world heavyweight champion. After reading
scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111, neither fighter seemed particularly
sure of who would be announced as the winner. After a drawn out
proclamation, Jimmy Lennon finally said the words that all observers hoped he
would: Lennox Lewis.
Looking simultaneously overjoyed and shocked, Lewis finally raised his hands
and cheered his good fortune. The new undisputed champion was all smiles,
having finally righted the injustice that was bestowed upon him earlier this
year. Across the ring, Holyfield appeared pleased with his own performance,
regardless of the outcome. Despite having been separated from any claim to
the title, he retained a grin of his own. In fact, everyone seemed to be
smiling, thrilled that a major fight had come off without incident.
While boxing certainly didn’t falter, and while this bout was infinitely more
competitive than the first, some post-fight analysis reveals that neither
fighter did much to help their careers.
While Lennox Lewis won a majority of the rounds, this was not one of his
finer performances. Lewis was often easy to hit, his schizophrenic jab again
came and went at random, and Lennox’s condition left a lot to be desired, as
a full half the bout was fought with his mouth hanging open and his hands
down. Worse, the opponent most frequently mentioned for Lewis by his
handlers, and even Lewis himself, was that of Mike Tyson. While Tyson
represents the perfect blend of no risk/big money, he certainly doesn’t
represent the type of fight that most people want to see. Alternatives
include the dreadful WBA mandatory Henry Akinwande, once disqualified for
hugging Lewis like a long lost relative...WBC mandatory John Ruiz, a fighter
so unworthy of a top-ten ranking that even the WBC seems unwilling to force
this fight...and IBF #1 contender David Tua, a fearsome puncher who could
represent the biggest threat to Lewis’ reign. Who will Lewis fight? Can he
hold the titles together? It remains to be seen....
As for Evander Holyfield, tonight’s performance was a mixed bag of results.
Holyfield certainly shocked critics who had again written him off as shot,
displaying that even at 37 years of age, he is good enough to adjust his
style and improve upon his mistakes. In a perfect world Holyfield would now
retire to his millions with his health intact. Unfortunately tonight’s
performance was probably good enough to encourage Holyfield to continue.
Locked out of the title picture for the immediate future, Holyfield too must
consider his options. Perhaps the only fight that makes sense for him is a
third showdown with Mike Tyson. This fight carries the same risk/reward
equation for Evander as it does for Lewis, but the curiosity factor might
make this an even more lucrative proposition. Beyond Tyson, however,
Holyfield’s options are limited. He’s unlikely to fight any of the young
up-and-comers in the division, and having fought on exclusively on pay per
view for the last several years will likely price him out of many tune-up
possibilities. Although he refused to announce his retirement in the ring
after the bout, he also wouldn’t rule it out. Let’s hope that Evander does
the right thing, as goes out on this respectable, if losing, effort.
When Holyfield-Lewis is looked back on, it won’t be remembered as a classic.
There were no knockdowns, few moments of drama, and only sporadic action.
But this fight might be remembered as the first step in the right direction:
a major event that was executed without controversy, collusion or corruption.
In any other year, that wouldn’t be worthy of mention. But in 1999, a year
in which nearly every main event seemed tainted, this bout was a breath of
Eight Months Late
by Thomas Gerbasi
No, Lennox Lewis and
Evander Holyfield didnt save the allegedly dying sport of boxing last night.
But what should have taken place
eight months ago in Madison Square Garden finally reached fruition in Las Vegas
Thomas and Mack Center, as Lennox Lewis was crowned the undisputed heavyweight champion of
the world via a unanimous 12 round decision.
In a vastly more entertaining
bout (though not close to the level of the Bowe-Holyfield trilogy), the decision resulted
from a more active Lewis, and a Holyfield who at times looked downright bored in the ring.
The scores of Jerry Roth, Chuck Giampa, and Bill Graham read 115-113, 116-112, 117-111,
respectively. This reporter scored it 115-113 for Lewis.
Holyfield started the fight off
in a more aggressive fashion, as Lewis looked bewildered and awkward in the opening
moments. But Great Britains first unified champ since 1897 (Bob Fitzsimmons) settled
into a groove in round two, landing sharp jabs to the head of the onrushing Holyfield.
Lewis added some hooks and
crosses to his jabs in round three, but it was Holyfield who stunned Lennox with a hard
right hand late in the frame.
In the fourth, Holyfield began to
show frustration in his inability to get inside Lewis reach by trying to swat down
the taller champions outstretched left arm. In the fifth, Lewis continued to play it
cool, even as both men almost flipped over the top rope when engaged in a particularly
tight clinch. Referee Mitch Halpern, one of the best in the game, took control of the
fight at that point, and no more nasty incidents occurred from that point on.
Holyfields head did produce a slight cut over Lewis right eye in that
sequence, but the cut proved to be of no consequence in the fight.
The pace slowed to a crawl in
round six, and the boo birds started to surface among the 19,000+ fans in attendance.
Between rounds, Emanuel Steward pleaded with Lewis to start letting his hands go. Lewis
replied with a nod of his head "Right Now". He wasnt kidding. In the
seventh, both men went toe to toe, blistering each other with solid shots, though neither
man ever seemed to be in any danger. As TVKOs Jim Lampley wisely noted "This
was the best round these two have fought in two fights."
Lewis abandoned his outside game
from that point, and chose to battle with Holyfield on the inside. One would think that
this strategy would favor Evander, but this stretch of the fight clinched the win for
Lewis. Lewis looked to be the more tired of the two fighters, but his punch output far
outstripped that of his opponent. Holyfield tried to steal rounds in the final twenty
seconds, but the judges were not swayed.
rounds" displayed little in the way of drama, mainly consisting of an occasional
flurry and a lot of clinching, but Lewis showed enough in the final frames to secure a
The real drama was in the wait
before the decision. Luckily, the right man won for a change. Eight months late.
Punchstat numbers gave Lewis an
edge, 195/490 over Holyfields 137/416.
In undercard action
Fabrice Tiozzo retained his WBA
cruiserweight crown with a 7th round TKO over Ken Murphy.
Sharmba Mitchell scored a
unanimous (114-112, 118-108, 119-109) decision over Venezuelas Elio Ortiz to retain
his WBA super lightweight title.
Gilbert Serrano won the WBA
lightweight crown as he stopped Stefano Zoff in the 10th round due to a cut.
Josue Blocus of France raised his
record to 9-0 (9 Kos) with a first round TKO over Clarence Goins.
Lewis Holyfield II
By Alan Taylor
While I would not deny that Lennox Lewis won his rematch with Evander Holyfield at the Thomas & Mack Centre last night the fight was by no means the classic that Boxing wanted. It was a better fight than the first admittedly but, as a British fight fan, I still find nothing about Lewis which excites me.
Lennox took the first five rounds by keeping Holyfield away with his jab. It was a strong jab but not a hurtful one and Lewis's next action on landing it was to step back. He occasionally landed a right uppercut but never appeared to hurt Holyfield.
From the sixth on Lewis neglected his jab and Holyfield, taking his chances, was able to land with combinations. In the sixth Holyfield was able to beat Lewis to the jab doubling up his won jab and following with a good right cross.
The seventh was a particularly strong round for Evander. He had Lewis in trouble, off balance and flailing badly, but was unable to finish matters. Holyfield took the middle rounds, Lewis looking tired and uncomfortable at having to fight Holyfield's fight.
The eight was a quieter, more even round but the ninth was better. Lewis was tired, his mouth open and his hands hanging by his sides. Holyfield forced him to fight however and took the round on my card with more accurate punches. They probably split the quieter tenth and eleventh.
Holyfield, behind on most scorecards, did enough in the last to take the round. As in the rest of the fight it was he who was forcing the fight but perhaps time has finally caught up and Evander was unable to make his more aggressive approach pay over the full distance.
The scorecards were 115-113 from Jerry Roth, 116-112 from Chuck Giampa and a ridiculous 117-111 from Bill Graham who obviously wanted to make up for Madison Square Garden just a little too much. Lewis did enough to win but found it very difficult to stray from his safety-first approach. He tired quickly and a younger Holyfield would surely have taken advantage more. As it was Holyfield's performance was significantly better than the last to allow him to retire with his head held high and his reputation as an all-time great intact. But Lewis, I fear, will never take the risks required for greatness. It may be that we have reached the limit for heavyweight's effective size. Lewis appears too big. Speed and stamina suffer. I do not expect the Lewis reign to be an exciting one.
In an admirable attempt to keep up the run of controversies the IBF removed their belt from ringside before the climax of the fight. Lewis wore the WBC, WBA and IBO(!) belts as he was interviewed. The beleaguered governing body claimed that the Lewis camp had not paid Bob Lee's bail, sorry, a sanctioning fee. This claim was supported at the press conference by Don King who, of course, could reclaim some measure of control if the belts were split. The best thing Lewis could do is dump all the belts in the nearest dustbin.
Earlier in the evening, in Hull England, Paul Ingle took the IBF featherweight title from Manuel Medina. Ingle took a unanimous decision in an exciting fight which saw Medina down twice in the second and again in the eleventh. Medina decked Ingle in the twelfth but was unable to keep him there. Ingle wins the title in his twenty-third fight and perhaps sets up a rematch with Naseem Hamed.