Reliving The Five-Minute Lewis-Klitschko Stare-down

vitali klitschko05.04.07 - By Scoop Malinowski: Vitali enters the arena to light boos. The sounds of 'Hotel California' announce the arrival of this mysterious warrior from a place called Ukraine. America still didn't know much about Vitali and there had to be some pessimism after seeing his loss to Chris Byrd and brother Wladimir's defeat at the hands of Corrie Sanders a few months earlier. But still, the presence of this gigantic six-foot seven statuesque behemoth was an arresting sight. The crowd was abuzz as Vitali approached the canvas battlefield.

Dressed in a black robe, Klitschko paused as he reached the boxing ring steps. It was about an eight-second delay. He just stood there, as if to gather all of himself, every last ounce of his powers for the moment of truth of his life. For the vicious struggle he knew that was now just moments away. Life would never be the same when this fight was over.

The 31-year-old entered the ring, slightly acknowledging a few scattered supporters, then settled into his corner. He looked comfortable and completely at ease and primed for this moment. Ready for absolutely anything the Lion would assault him with.

There was a long delay of over a minute. "I am told Lennox is sitting down watching Vitali on a monitor in his dressing room," said HBO's Jim Lampley. "It seems quite obvious this is a psychological ploy." Replied Larry Merchant, with a tone of annoyance, "If he's so confident of winning, if he's so dismissive of Klitschko, why does he need gamesmanship for?" "And just at this moment, I am told, Lewis has emerged into the hallway..."

Perhaps provoked by that prompt, Lewis appears, looking like some kind of ghastly grim reaper attired in his hooded white robe. His eyes have the exact same dead calm focus as the second Rahman fight. You are wrong if you think Lewis has taken Vitali lightly. He knows this, like the Rahman fight, will be the boxing fight of his life.

Lewis strode in to the arena and then the ring, maintaining that perfect unblinking eye contact with the HBO camera. His calm sharp intensity of expression is one of the most impressive I've ever seen in boxing, maybe the greatest. When Lewis is in that zone he is unbeatable. I'm telling you, he is unbeatable. He had it for Rahman II, Ruddock, Golota, Tyson, Tua, Botha, and he has it again tonight.

But Lewis has to be stopped by security, to enter the boxing ring from the corner Vitali passed by on his entrance. Lewis ascended the steps and waited for Emanuel Steward to open the ropes. For some reason, Emanuel did not and then Lewis squeezed through the top strands by himself. There wasn't much applause for the great Lennox Lewis. Maybe they were too in awe of this moment, maybe they somehow sensed the superhuman collision that was about to clash.

Bouncing and doing a little dance to the music, directly in front of the studying Klitschko, Lewis's hood fell over his eyes. He shook his head as a cue for Courtney Shand to remove it. Then the great gladiator's eyes locked onto his challenger's. They both greeted each other in some sort of a silent homage. 'I'm here now for you. I know this is what you want. But I'm here to show you the difference between you and I.'

But ever so slightly though, it was Lennox who appeared to be the prey. Vitali was the predator.

They stared into each other's eyes from each corner for almost five minutes, all the way until the bell. It was incredible. The longest, most intense stare-down perhaps in heavyweight championship history.

Klitschko had a slight smile to his countenance, and a trace of a sneer, too. As if communicating, 'I finally got you. Five years I've been waiting for this moment. Four contracts you broke, four times you delayed me. Now, finally, at last, I'm going to break you. Yes. I am going to destroy you tonight.'

Lewis was in perfect comfort also. He was in his own world and ready for the violence this giant was about to unleash on him. This was one of the most electrical moments in recent heavyweight boxing history. Without any doubt, I believe Lennox was fully aware of how confident and fiercely determined Vitali was for this and he was ready. The mighty and proud lion would confront this challenger to his throne, this strange and foreign invader.

When Michael Buffer announced Klitschko, Vitali did not at all acknowledge it. He was so focused on the target, his eyes narrowed even tighter. Like a Ukrainian assassin about to fulfill his greatest obligation. Meanwhile, Lewis's 37-year-old body looked as good as it possibly could. There was no softness or even the hint of flab even though he weighed in at a career high. I know for a fact Lewis trained for this fight like it would be his last. Camp members assured me he was breaking running and sprinting records, that's how fit and serious he was. The problem could be though that physical and mental pressure exerted by a larger man can excel the rate of fatigue onset.

When referee Lou Moret brought the warriors together for instructions, Vitali got right into Lewis's face, no less than 12 inches away, as if to remind of the fact he was an inch taller. Vitali was most certainly the hunter here. Lewis was the hunted.

Vitali showed Lennox a look of fierce, intense arrogance. Vitali just knew in his mind he would dethrone the long-time king. Brother Wladimir, standing to his brother's immediate left, fixed his eyes on Lewis, with his right hand on his brother's right deltoid. As if injecting it with some of his own power. Both brothers looked fiercely confident but still extremely respectful towards the great man who stood before them.

Lewis was absolutely blank. Absolutely blank. He did not bother or need to convey anything at this moment. As they touched gloves, I think, from my perspective, Vitali opened his smile at Lennox. Still, Lennox showed Vitali nothing.

"Lennox Lewis's body is dry..." said an excited George Foreman...

Less than 30 minutes later, it was all over. We would not discover who was the master and who was the suppressed of this epic battle. The victor was booed out of the arena and the defeated was applauded overwhelmingly for his heroic and courageous performance which he was winning until the referee stopped it before round seven.

The proper rematch never happened. But if it were to still, Lewis vs. Klitschko II would generate up to $100,000,000 in total revenues.

But peace has been struck and Lewis and Klitschko are friendly and respectful to each other. They shook hands and smiled together in the empty ring after Klitschko-Austin.

Perhaps that was the most proper finality to the great rivalry which thrilled the world on June 21, 2003 in Los Angeles, CA.

Scoop's book "Lewis vs. Tyson Heavyweight Armageddon! The Inside Story About The Biggest Money Fight in Boxing History" will be released in 2008.

Article posted on 05.04.2007

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