Lennox Lewis: What sets him apart

27.12.04 - By Don Caputo: Former undisputed heavyweight king Lennox Lewis is considered to be the first and only great super-heavyweight. An Olympic gold medalist, Lewis captured the heavyweight crown on three separate occasions and retired on top with a record of 41 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw.

Does anyone seriously think Vitali Klitscko would be a top ten heavyweight let alone WBC champion if it werenít for his considerable height, weight and reach advantages over almost all of his opponents. Donít get me wrong, he is a finely conditioned athlete who he can clearly fight a bit, however I just canít see that unusual European style of his being effective, at all, if he were a few inches shorter. Super heavyweights (6ft 5 plus) as a group, past and present, have a reputation of and in general do tend to be slow, clumsy, ponderous and lacking in boxing ability. There have of course been exceptions; but, on the whole, if not for their immense size and physical strength, these big guys who have and continue to scale the heights of the heavyweight division would not enjoy the same kind of success based on their skill level.

Lennox Lewis is not just one of the exceptions, he is at this moment in time the greatest exception. He did not simply use his enormous size to overwhelm his opposition; he combined his physical advantages with what was, in my opinion, very underappreciated boxing ability. For a man of his size he could move incredibly well at times; technically he was superb and he possessed a full arsenal of punches which he unleashed with speed, power and accuracy. Iím talking about Lewis at his best here, when he was focused, sharp and on top of his game. My main criticism of him is that too often he underperformed, got sloppy and subsequently lost more than once because his mind wasnít on the job. Nonetheless, he proved his greatness to me by coming back from both of his shocking defeats and showing what he was really capable of in eventual rematches.

You can justly criticize him for losing to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, he shouldnít have and it unquestionably hurts his legacy, but one thing you can say about Lennox Lewis is that he never lost a big fight. He was without a doubt a big stage performer; it seemed to bring out the best in him throughout his career. Itís no coincidence that he produced his most impressive performances Ė Ruddock, Golota, Tua Ė in dangerous, high stake fights. Like all winners his biggest fear was losing, so when he felt an opponent posed a genuine threat it ignited his inner fire and brought out the best in him. That fear was his best friend, when he didnít have it he looked nothing like an all time great heavyweight champion. Just watch his two fights with Hasim Rahman to see what I mean.

Lennox Lewis was not a great fighter just because of his size, I hope no one ever thinks that. He set himself apart from every other super heavyweight in history with his performances in the ring and longevity; he took on all corners and retired as champion.

Article posted on 27.12.2004

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