Today, with both heavyweight greats happy and content in retirement, Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko are all smiles and full of mutual respect for one another. But back in the summer of 2003 when they gave us what was one of the great heavyweight nights at The Staples Centre in Los Angeles (the venue for the upcoming Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight of course), Lewis and Klitschko were arch-enemies.
Klitschko made a huge name for himself on the word stage with his gutsy effort, while defending world champ Lewis opened up horrific cuts on the face of his challenger, scoring a TKO that led many to believe there would be a rematch. But there was no pat-two, even though millions of fans the world over badly wanted one. Klitschko too craved a second go at Lewis, but it was not to be; Lennox instead doing the smart thing and, at the age of 38, retiring from the sport.
At the recent WBC convention in Kyiv, Lewis and Klitschko met up again. Each former fighter donned boxing gloves but also wore a smart suit (an odd combo if ever there was one) and the two smiled as they recalled their epic rumble. Klitschko is proud of the way fans still talk about the savage six-round war he and Lewis engaged in.
“The fight, which millions of people around the world are still discussing, took place 15 years ago. Today our ring is a stage, and we can comment on that fight,” Vitali said as quoted by Ukrinform. “Lennox has given me a chance to show that I am one of the strongest boxers in the world. All boxing fans, commentators, appreciated my skills [after that fight]. Today many people want to see the Klitschko-Lewis fight again, but sorry, unfortunately this is no longer the case.”
Just why Lewis didn’t grant Klistchko a return fight continues to cause debate amongst fight fans. Some claim Lewis was afraid of Klitschko and that by refusing to fight him a second time he tarnished his legacy. But Lewis, a studious fighter if ever there was one, didn’t make his decision to retire quickly or without serious thought. Lennox revealed how he studied the tape of the fight again and again, “about thirty times,” and that he came to the conclusion that Vitali was “the toughest of his opponents.”
Maybe, after watching the fight over and over, Lewis knew that at his advanced age (relatively speaking) and after such a good, long and at times tough career, he could not beat Klitschko a second time. It sure would have been a hugely interesting part-two had the two giants fought again, but Lewis was too smart to take that risk. And today Vitali has nothing but respect and admiration for the former champ who stopped him after those six bloody rounds.
If Vitali can make peace with Lennox, then so too should all those critics out there who still insist on giving Lewis a hard time for retiring when he did. And anyway, most of the time sequels fail to live up to the original, don’t they?