30.06.06 – By Joseph Mathew: It was three years ago that Lennox Lewis made his final appearance as a professional boxer. That particular fight has caused strong debate over the last three years. Lennox defended his WBC title against Vitali Klitschko, a giant Ukrainian who grabbed the attention of boxing fans everywhere that evening. Klitschko quickly brought the fight to Lewis and was on his way to pulling off a huge upset.. However, one of Lewis’ punches opened up Vitali’s eye, a cut which bled profusely, eventually bringing a halt to the bout after the 6th round. At that point, Lennox was declared the winner.
A few years later, some fans still believe that Lewis has not been given enough credit for his stoppage of Klitschko. It is true; Vitali did accomplish more in defeat than Lennox did in victory. Still though, it’s difficult for many fans to give Lewis full respect, mainly because Klitschko was robbed in a fight that he was on the verge of winning.
When the fight was stopped, Vitali was ahead 4 rounds to 2 on each of the judge’s scorecards. Of course, it was Klitschko showing so much heart and being ahead on the scorecards that sparked this debate once that classic fight occurred. Klitschko fans are convinced that Vitali would have won if the fight continued. Lewis fans believe that Klitschko was lucky that his bloody eye stopped the fight, or Lewis would’ve pulled himself together and knocked Klitschko out. No matter what people believe, one thing is for sure, Lewis does not deserve any remorse for stealing Klitschko’s victory in what may have been the upset of the year.
Without doubt, Vitali fought a real battle with Lennox, pouring out everything he had in the biggest fight of his career. It’s just unfortunate that all these excuses are being made for Lewis, excuses to why he was having such difficulty with Klitschko. Claims are made that Lewis was out of shape, over-confident, and overall unprepared for the storm Klitschko was about to unleash. From another point of view, Lennox Lewis was the Heavyweight Champion, a man holding full responsibility to be prepared for every title defense. If not prepared for battle, how deserving is Lewis to be called World Champion? Lewis fans also believe that if a rematch had taken place, Lewis would’ve come back in better shape and taken out Klitschko like he had done to previous opponents to whom he had rematches with. This is something we’ll never know. Lennox promised Vitali a rematch, but never delivered. If anything is for certain, Vitali Klitschko’s name should not be compared to those such as Oliver McCall or Hasim Rahman, men who had defeated Lewis, but then lost in their rematches with him. Not only was Klitschko having a better night that Lewis, he was the better boxer.
Right after the fight, Lewis explained in an interview that even though he had a rough start, he was getting his timing down and pulling himself together, so if the fight continued, he would’ve knocked Klitschko out. Did this surprise anyone? Seriously, not many fighters would’ve said, “I was losing the fight. I was really lucky to have gotten the victory.” Amazingly, some fans actually believed what Lewis had to say, and think that Lennox would’ve knocked Vitali out if the fight continued. Not only is that belief way too presumptuous, but it makes no sense. At the time of stoppage, Klitschko wasn’t having any problems fighting Lewis, even despite the fact that his eye was pouring blood all over his face. When the fight was brought to a stop, Vitali’s facial expression was of pure shock. He was beating the World Heavyweight Champion, and his life-long dream was instantly yanked out of his grasp. Having no control over this outcome, Klitschko could only hope that Lewis would keep his promise and give him a rematch.
Many would say that Lennox should get respect for leaving the sport on his own terms and as the world’s top heavyweight. Still, it is a shame that Lennox decided to walk away from boxing with all this controversy taking place. The truth is; it was Lewis’ decision to retire, nobody’s fault but his own. He could’ve either kept his promise by giving a highly desired rematch to Klitschko, or retire as the World Champion along with the alias “chicken.” Obviously, Lewis flew the coop. Bottom line; I personally feel that Lewis does not deserve any remorse after retiring rather than giving Vitali a rematch.
Vitali was never able to become the next undisputed world heavyweight champion, since he retired last November, unable to cope with his reoccurring injuries. It is unfortunate that although Klitschko couldn’t fill in the gap left by Lennox Lewis, nobody has come close ever since. Power punchers such as Lamon Brewster and Samuel Peter have provided some great fights for us, but neither have been able to fill the void as of yet. Hasim Rahman and Nikolay Valuev are two of today’s title-holders, but they seem to lack the skill and excitement that a true world champion would require. Ironically, our hopes and confidence are being placed into Vitali’s younger brother, Wladimir Klitschko. Once destined to be the heir to Lewis’ throne, Wladimir hit roadblocks named Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. Since suffering those defeats, Wladimir has gotten himself together, has pulled off some great victories, and is now the IBF Heavyweight Champion.
It is obviously difficult for anyone to become the next Lennox Lewis. Then again, while Lewis fans are wishing that he was still the champion and providing quality entertainment by defending his title, we can’t ignore how close Vitali came to defeating him and becoming the new undisputed heavyweight king. It doesn’t help that many fans are skeptical about Klitschko, knowing that the highlight of his career was his loss to Lewis, and they feel that he had done nothing else. Apparently, those fans have forgotten about Vitali’s dominant record (35-2, 34 KOs), both of those losses due to injury, and scoring dominant wins in eliminators over Larry Donald and Kirk Johnson, then finally defeating Corrie Sanders to become the WBC Heavyweight Champion. Perhaps those names seem mediocre; however, nobody ever came close to actually beating Vitali. Plus, Lewis’ name is far from mediocre, and Klitschko not only out boxed him, but also scared him into retirement. It has been stated by Vitali repeatedly that if Lennox decided to come out of retirement, that he would come out of retirement as well and demand his rematch. Although this scenario seems extremely unlikely, you never really know what the future holds. Crazier things have happened in boxing.