Seven months on from his South African altitude nightmare, when 20-1 underdog Hasim Rahman sensationally KO’d him in round-five to take the heavyweight crown, Lennox Lewis put things back in order in the Las Vegas return. This time fully prepared and not having to acclimatise to any change in altitude, Lewis put on one of his finest performances, giving us one of the most memorable heavyweight KO’s of the 2000s in the process.
Rahman, who had a ton of options hurled at him after he had sent an exhausted Lewis down and out in Carnival City in April of 2001, could have made his first title defence against Mike Tyson. Rahman declined. Lewis had a rematch clause in place and he had to go to court to force it, as Rahman actually opted to make defence number-one against David Izon. If only the courts had ruled in Rahman’s favour. Chances are “The Rock” would have won the Izon fight and at least had the satisfaction of holding the crown for longer than seven months.
But the rematch with Lewis was on and Lennox was determined to KO Rahman quicker than he had been knocked out. “He’ll be known as ‘Has-been Rahman’ after this fight, Lewis said. After a brief Ali-Frazier type scuffle in a TV studio, Rahman making “gay” remarks towards Lewis, the “Repeat or Revenge” fight was on at The Mandalay Bay in Vegas: November 17, 2001.
Lewis boxed quite beautifully in the opening three rounds, banking them all, and then he let loose with a savagely exquisite two-punch combination in the fourth. A left-right explosion set Rahman’s brain on fire and he crashed to the mat, falling a second time as he tried, on sheer instinct, to rise. It was over. Never had a heavyweight king avenged a loss to the man who had previously defeated him in such devastating fashion. And Lewis had what he wanted: he had iced Rahman quicker than Rahman had iced him. There was no call for a rubber-match.
Lewis, when his Hall of Fame career was over, had the satisfaction of having beaten every single man he ever fought; having previously avenged his shock KO loss to Oliver McCall. It could be argued that Lewis should never have lost to either challenger in the first place, that his place among the greatest of the greats is compromised due to the two losses, at least a little.
But if Lennox made a mistake twice, he sure made up for it twice.