“Is he British?” “Is he Canadian?” No matter the questions plenty of fight fans were asking three decades ago when heavyweight star Lennox Lewis went pro, Lewis was a born Londoner and his first pro fight took place in the nation’s capital. Okay, Lennox had captured Olympic gold whilst proudly representing Canada (the country he and his family had relocated to when Lennox was 12 years old), but he had since signed up with a British promoter and the UK would be his base as he attempted to end the drought British heavyweight boxing had endured for getting on a century – the last British heavyweight champion of the world being Cornwall’s Bob Fitzsimmons, who ruled back in 1897 to 1899).
Lewis began his quest with a quick, second-round TKO win over a decent enough trial-horse named Al Malcolm, on June 27th 1989. Doing things the old fashioned way, Lewis cleaned up at domestic level, at Commonwealth level and at European level, winning the trio of belts: European, British and Commonwealth.
Lewis cut his teeth with good and somewhat testing fights with the likes of Gary Mason, Jean-Maurice Chanet and (a blow-out) Glenn McCrory. Then Lennox was unleashed on the world stage, the 26 year old taking care of respected names like Tyrell Biggs, Derek Williams and Mike Weaver.
Then Lewis completely blew the world scene apart with his hugely impressive destruction of the feared Donovan “Razor” Ruddock. These two knew each other from the amateur days and Lewis’ second-round KO sent shock-waves throughout the entire sport. Lewis was on his way and soon enough, after the odd bump in the road, he would cement his standing as THE best big man on the planet.
Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno and Phil Jackson were all beaten, before Lewis ran into Oliver McCall. Two-rounds and a few months later, Lewis was being trained by the great Emanuel Steward and global domination was his for the taking.
Tommy Morrison, Ray Mercer, McCall in a rematch, Andrew Golota, Shannon Briggs and Evander Holyfield were all taken (after an appalling draw with Holyfield; Lewis winning the return), and then, after avenging his only other loss, to a better prepared Hasim Rahman, Lewis would put the final touches on his career by way of big and high-profile wins over Mike Tyson and future ruler Vitali Klitschko.
Lewis is easily deserving of being ranked as the finest-ever British heavyweight. Or the finest-ever Canadian heavyweight. Take your pick. And it all began on a Tuesday evening in London 30 years ago this week.
Lennox Lewis: 41-2-1(32). Three-time heavyweight champion. Olympic gold medal winner. All-time great.