Harold Knight, Co-Trainer Of Lennox Lewis, Recalls “The Draw” – Lewis-Holyfield I

By James Slater - 03/13/2024 - Comments

Today marks the 25th anniversary of what could so easily be referred to as the single most disgraceful decision in world heavyweight championship boxing history. If not in boxing history, period. It was of course on March 13th of 1999, when Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield met at Madison Square Garden in New York for the undisputed heavyweight crown.

After 12 rounds, almost everyone on planet earth felt Lewis had done more than enough to have won, yet the fight was instead scored d draw. A certain Eugenia Williams was thrown into the global spotlight, her score for Holyfield – 115-113 – being simply unfathomable. Almost as bad, was judge Larry O’Connell’s card, which scored the fight level at an equally perplexing 115-115. Only Stanley Christodoulou had his eyesight in full working order that night, with him scoring the fight 116-113 for Lewis.

A full investigation followed, as did the inevitable rematch. This time, in a better fight, a far more competitive fight, Lewis won the decision. But it was close.

Harold “The Shadow” Knight, a long-time co-trainer of Lewis, was there, as he was for all but three of Lennox’s pro fights. Here, the former 130 pound world title challenger recalls the shocking draw of a quarter of a century ago, as well as the rematch.

Q: It’s great to be able to speak with you again, Harold. 25 years – has it flown by?

Harold Knight: “Well, (laughs), I still look like I’m 25 years old! I’m joking. But time has gone real quick, it has. I’m always on the boxing websites, and I was watching the first fight [between Lewis and Holyfield] quite recently. As bad as that decision was, I was happy to have been a part of Lennox’s career. And I must tell you, the second fight [with Holyfield] – we only won it by a point. It was close, and a much more competitive fight. But Holyfield really was a tough fight for anyone, and Lennox understood that. Also, if you remember, Holyfield had predicted how he would knock Lennox out, I think in the third or fourth round. So after that fourth round, with Lennox winning the fight, as I believe he was, Lennox put the pedal to the mettle.”

Q: Can you recall the mood in the dressing room after the fight? How down was everyone over the terrible decision that denied Lewis his rightful win?

H.K: “I can’t really recall what was said. We were in a state of disbelief. I mean, even Holyfield and [his trainer] Don Turner couldn’t believe it! In our dressing room, we knew there would have to be some sort of investigation, which there was. Going into that fight, Lennox and Evander had some sort of a grudge, so to speak, with Lennox saying something like, he [Holyfield] had around 100 kids! We knew we had to get the rematch, as it was for all the belts. And any time the result of a fight is on the front page and the back page of The Daily News, the big paper of the time, you know it’s a big deal. A big controversy.”

Q: As you said, the rematch was closer, and it was a greater fight……

H.K: “Lennox asked me in the ring, right before the decision was announced, he asked me how I had it. I told him, I said it was close. And it was. Holyfield came back stronger and we knew that would be the case.”

Q: Where do you think the draw ranks as far as the worst decisions in boxing history – top-5?

H.K: “It was bad. But…….I know Pernell [Whitaker] against Chavez was really bad, easily top-5. In terms of ranking, like I say, whenever there’s a government investigation into a fight, that tells you it has to be ranked as one of the worst ever.”

Q: And just going back to Holyfield’s third round KO prediction. As Lennox said himself to Holyfield at the time, when has Holyfield ever knocked anyone out so quick – an out of shape Buster Douglas aside? Did Evander’s out of character prediction give you confidence, as it was so unlike him?

H.K: “Exactly. And I can vividly recall how, after the round, Lennox had like a smirk on his face. And he stepped it up after that.”

Q: Going into the rematch, did you think Lewis would score a KO himself this time?

H.K: “No. We didn’t think like that. We prepared for the best possible version of Holyfield. A KO win was not the narrative in our camp. Holyfield had been in with lots of fighters, and it’s testament to Lennox that he beat all the top rivals of his era. We felt going in that Holyfield would come back stronger. And on an interesting side note, Don Turner, who of course trained Holyfield, he also trained me when I was fighting. We knew they’d come back with a better fight, and they did. That rematch, I do say we just nicked it. It was close.”

Q: What made Lewis so great? Looking back, he really did fight everyone – David Tua, Razor Ruddock, Ray Mercer, Vitali Klitschko, Holyfield, Mike Tyson………

H.K: “Well, I know Anthony Joshua is doing it right now, fighting three, four times a year. But most fighters don’t do that today. Lewis fought three or four fights every year. If you ask me, that’s what made Lennox so good.”

Q: Of all Lewis’s great fights, which one ranks as your personal favourite? It’s a tough question I guess, as Lewis had so many.

H.K: “That’s an excellent question. The best fight for me, as far as the fight, the win, and all the circumstances surrounding it, was the Gary Mason fight (from March of 1991). Mason had knocked out just about everybody he had faced, and he was tipped to win that fight. It was for the British title, and Lennox ended up stopping him with a jab. After that fight, that performance, I knew Lennox would go on to become a great. Gary Mason – God rest his soul – he was a good guy. He tried his best and I remember after the fight, he was all by himself in his room, with nobody talking to him, with him so dejected at having lost. And we went and talked with him. As I say, Gary Mason was a good person.”

Q: Thanks so much for your time, Harold. Just one last question – who wins, Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk?

H.K: “I like Fury, but it’s not going to be easy. Fury I think wants to make a statement now, after what Joshua did with Ngannou. And a good big man usually beats a good smaller man. I know Usyk has beaten big guys, like Joshua. I just like Fury in this one, but it will be close.”