Who Does Lennox Lewis Say Was His Toughest Opponent?

“The Only Man That Has Gone 24 Rounds With Me”

Heavyweight great Lennox Lewis certainly had some incredible career. At both amateur level and as a pro, Lewis met and defeated all manner of styles: be it a lethal puncher in Razor Ruddock, a granite-chinned slugger in David Tua, a fellow great in (an admittedly faded) Mike Tyson, or a tricky guy like a Henry Akinwande. Lewis defeated every man he faced, avenging his shock stoppage defeats to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman.

But when it comes to who the toughest man he ever faced goes, Lewis has only one name: Evander Holyfield. Lewis took to social media yesterday, to pay his respects to “the only man that has gone 24 rounds with me.”

“People seem to be genuinely surprised when I tell them [Holyfield] was my toughest opponent, not to be confused with my toughest fight, which was [Ray] Mercer, but when you really dive into why that is, it actually makes a lot of sense,” Lewis wrote. “Holyfield, like me, has an extensive amateur pedigree that has served him well throughout his professional career. He started boxing at eight years old and was an Olympic bronze medalist in 1984. Before he moved up to the heavyweight division, he’s a man that cleared out the cruiserweight division to become the undisputed champion, and arguably the best ever, in that weight class.

“That’s a lot of experience and it’s safe to say that by the time we met for the undisputed heavyweight championship in 1999, he had seen it all. When you combine Evander’s amateur and professional experience, you would be hard pressed not to see the kind of success he’s had in the ring. I may tease him a bit on our two fights, he knows I won both fights even though he’ll never admit it, but in all seriousness, he’s the only man that has gone 24 rounds with me.”

As fans know, the first fight between Lewis and Holyfield ended up a draw, one of the most controversial in all of boxing. The return saw Holyfield push Lewis a lot harder and some experts do feel Holyfield deserved the decision (veteran boxing scribe Colin Hart for one) – and to this day, Holyfield feels he won. But the stink was so bad from fight-one, when Lewis got robbed, that no way were the judges going to award a close decision to Holyfield in the return.

It’s good that Lewis has full respect for Holyfield today. I’m sure “The Real Deal” feels pretty much the same way about Lennox.

Lewis signed off by again stating how ultra-important an amateur background is for any fighter.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of amateur experience,” Lewis wrote. “Consider the amateurs as your internship into the pros. The more you learn about your craft, the better it will serve you.”

Clearly, both Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield, both Olympians, learned plenty when boxing as amateurs.