Lennox Claudius Lewis, CM, CBE (born September 2, 1965) is a retired boxer and the most recent undisputed world heavyweight champion. He holds dual British and Canadian citizenship. As an amateur he won gold representing Canada at the 1988 Olympic Games after defeating future heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe in the final.
Lewis turned professional in 1989, winning his first 21 fights. In 1992 he knocked out Donovan Ruddock to take over the number one position in the World Boxing Council (WBC) rankings and eventually be declared WBC heavyweight champion in 1993. Lewis lost the title to Oliver McCall in 1994 but defeated McCall in a rematch to win the vacant WBC title in 1997. Lewis went on to defend the title four times, becoming the Lineal Champion after beating Shannon Briggs by KO in 1998. He became undisputed champion after defeating Evander Holyfield in November 1999. After defeating Mike Tyson by KO in 2002 and stopping Vitali Klitschko in 2003, Lennox Lewis retired from boxing in 2004.
Throughout his professional career, Lewis suffered two losses, both of which he avenged in rematches, both by knockout. Lewis won the heavyweight championship three times and was the fourth man to reclaim the lineal championship.
Lewis is 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) tall and has an 84-inch (213 cm) reach, much longer than average for his height. During his boxing prime, he weighed about 250 pounds (113 kg). Lewis often referred to himself as “the pugilist specialist.”
Early lifeLewis was born on September 2, 1965, in West Ham, London, England to Jamaican-born parents. At birth he weighed 10 pounds 10 ounces (4.8 kg), and was given the name Lennox by the doctor, who said he looked like a Lennox. Lewis moved to Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1977 at the age of 12. He attended Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute for high school, where he excelled in Canadian football, soccer and basketball.
Amateur careerLewis eventually decided that his favourite sport was boxing. He became a dominant amateur boxer and won the world amateur junior title in 1983.
At the age of 18, Lewis represented Canada as a super heavyweight at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He advanced to the quarter-finals, where he lost a decision to American Tyrell Biggs, the eventual gold medalist.
Lewis chose not to turn professional after the Olympics, and instead fought four more years as an amateur, hoping for a second chance to win a gold medal. After winning several more amateur titles during those years, he travelled to Seoul, South Korea for the 1988 Summer Olympics and achieved his goal. In the gold medal match, Lewis defeated future world champion Riddick Bowe by a second round technical knockout (TKO).
Professional boxing careerHaving achieved that goal, Lewis declared himself a professional boxer and moved back to his native England. He claimed he’d always considered himself British, but many British fans regard him as “a Canadian at heart and a Briton for convenience”, as he had trained only in Canada and the United States and already lived half his life in North America.
He signed with the boxing promoter Frank Maloney and the early part of his pro career was filled with knockouts of journeymen. After he signed with American promoter Main Event he captured the European heavyweight title late in 1990 against Frenchman Jean Maurice Chanet. In his next fight in March 1991, Lewis won the British title against the undefeated world ranked Gary Mason, then won the Commonwealth title in April 1992 against Derek Williams.
By this time, Lewis was a consensus top-five heavyweight in the world. During this period Lewis defeated former WBA heavyweight champion Mike Weaver, 1984 Olympic Gold medalist Tyrell Biggs, former world cruiserweight title holders Glenn McCrory and Osvaldo Ocasio, and journeymen Levi Billups and Mike Dixon.
WBC championOn 31 October 1992, Lewis knocked out Canadian Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in two rounds for the number one contender’s position in the WBC world rankings. At the time it was Lewis’ most impressive win, and established him as one of the world’s best heavyweights. Sportscaster Larry Merchant declared following the win “We have a great new heavyweight.”
The win over Ruddock made Lewis the number one contender for Riddick Bowe’s heavyweight championship. Bowe refused to face Lewis, and held a press conference to dump the title in a trash can and relinquish it. On 14 December 1992, the WBC declared Lewis its champion, making him the first world heavyweight titleholder from Britain in the 20th century.
Lewis successfully defended the belt three times, defeating Tony Tucker, who was decked (in the third and ninth rounds) for the first time in his career, and he followed this up with knockout victories over Phil Jackson and Frank Bruno. The Lennox Lewis vs. Frank Bruno fight was the first time that two British-born boxers had fought for the world heavyweight title.
Loss to McCallLennox Lewis lost his WBC title to Oliver McCall on 24 September 1994 in a huge upset at the Wembley Arena in London. In the second round, McCall connected with a powerful left/right combination, putting Lewis down on his back. Lewis was up at the count of six, but stumbled forward into the referee. The referee felt Lewis was dazed and ended the fight, giving McCall the win by technical knockout. Lewis and others argued that the stoppage was premature and that a champion should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Regaining the WBC titleIn his first comeback fight Lewis was given a chance to fight for the mandatory challenger position within the WBC and won it by knocking out American contender Lionel Butler. However, at the behest of promoter Don King the WBC chose to bypass him and give Mike Tyson the first shot at the title that had recently been won by fellow Briton Frank Bruno against Oliver McCall. Bruno had previously lost to both Lewis and Tyson.
While Lewis had the No. 1 contender’s slot in the WBC rankings he knocked out Australian Justin Fortune, then defeated former WBO Champion Tommy Morrison in October 1995, and Olympic gold medallist and former WBO champion Ray Mercer by a close majority decision in May 1996. Lewis successfully sued to try to force Tyson to make a mandatory defense of the WBC title against him or force Tyson to give up the title, winning a four million dollar settlement from promoter Don King. Rather than fight Lewis, Tyson relinquished the WBC belt to fight Evander Holyfield, and the title was declared vacant. This set up a rematch between Lewis and McCall, who squared off on February 7, 1997 in Las Vegas for the WBC title. In one of the strangest fights in boxing history, McCall refused to box in the fourth and fifth rounds, then began crying in the ring, forcing the referee to stop the fight and award Lewis the victory and the title. As newly re-crowned WBC champion, Lewis successfully defended the title during 1997 against fellow Briton and former WBO world champion Henry Akinwande, who was disqualified after five rounds for excessive clinching. Lewis then met Poland’s Andrew Golota, whom he knocked out in the first round. During 1998, Lewis again retained the WBC world title when he knocked out lineal champion Shannon Briggs in five rounds (Briggs had recently outpointed George Foreman in a controversial fight, to win the lineal title) and beat formerly-undefeated European champion Željko Mavrović from Croatia in a 12-round unanimous decision. Lewis stated in 2006 that his fight with Mavrovic was the most awkward win of his career.
Lewis Vs. HolyfieldOn March 13, 1999, Lewis faced WBA and IBF title holder Evander Holyfield in New York City in what was supposed to be a heavyweight unification bout. Lewis fought a brilliant tactical fight, keeping Holyfield off balance with a long jab and peppering him with combinations almost at will. Although most observers believed Lewis had clearly won the fight, the bout was declared a draw, to much controversy. The raw statistics of the fight suggested the bout belonged to Lewis, who landed 348 punches compared to Holyfield’s 130. Lewis also out-jabbed Holyfield 137 to 52. Judge Eugenia Williams, who scored the fight in Holyfield’s favour, said she saw Lewis land fewer punches than Holyfield.
Lewis Vs. Holyfield IIThe sanctioning bodies ordered a rematch. Eight months later in Las Vegas (November 13, 1999), the two men fought again in a more open and entertaining contest than the original fight, with the two boxers having some heavy exchanges from rounds 6 to 9. The punch stats however still clearly favoured Lewis who landed 195 punches to Evander Holyfield’s 137 punches, although interestingly Lewis landed 119 power shots and 76 jabs, showing a definite shift in his tactics from the first fight when he focused more on the jab. This time around the 3 Judges did score the fight unanimously (115–113, 116–112 & 117–111) all in favour of Lewis who became undisputed heavyweight champion of the World.
In 1999, Lewis was given one of the most prestigious sports awards in Britain, being voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Reign as Undisputed ChampionAfter Lewis defeated Holyfield the WBA ordered Lewis to defend the title against John Ruiz of Puerto Rico, then an obscure Don King fighter who had been made the WBA’s #1-ranked contender. The WBA gave permission for Lewis to fight his WBC mandatory Michael Grant first if he would fight Ruiz next, which Lewis agreed to. Opposed to this, Ruiz’s promoter challenged this decision in court on the basis of a clause in the Lewis-Holyfield rematch contract that said Lewis’s first bout as undisputed champion would be against the WBA’s number one contender. Lewis was therefore to be stripped of his WBA belt if he fought Grant first.
Lewis proceeded to fight the 6 ft 8 inch American Michael Grant who he considered the best contender available. He successfully defended his WBC, IBO & IBF titles against Grant with a second round knockout victory in Madison Square Garden in April 2000.
Later that same year Lewis knocked out South African Francois Botha in two rounds in London, before winning a 12-round decision against New Zealander and IBF mandatory opponent, David Tua in Las Vegas.
Lewis Vs. RahmanOn April 21, 2001, Lewis was knocked out by 15-to-1 underdog Hasim Rahman in a bout in South Africa. The loss, coupled with Lewis’s earlier TKO loss to McCall, led many ringside observers[who?] to question Lewis’s heart and chin. Prior to the bout, Lewis had a role in the film Ocean’s Eleven in which he “boxed” against Wladimir Klitschko, and many feel that the distraction and disrupted training schedule contributed significantly to his loss.
Lewis Vs. Rahman IILewis immediately sought a rematch with the new champion; however, Rahman, now being promoted by Don King, tried to secure another opponent for his inaugural title defence. Lewis took Rahman to court to honour the rematch clause in their contract. Rahman was ordered to honour the clause and give Lewis a rematch in his first title defence. While promoting the rematch with Rahman on ESPN’s Up Close, the fighters got into a brawl similar to the one between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in front of Howard Cosell on Wide World of Sports. Many felt the brawl was staged to promote the fight, so the reality of the episode is still a matter of debate. Lewis regained the title on November 17 by outclassing and then knocking out Hasim Rahman in the fourth round of their rematch.
Lewis vs. TysonMain article: Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson
The Lewis-Tyson fight was one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in years.On June 8, 2002, Lewis defended his title against Mike Tyson. A fight many had hoped would be a classic turned out to be one-sided as Lennox used his jab and superior reach to score a dominant knockout victory over “Iron Mike.” By the end of the seventh round Tyson was tired and sluggish, his face swollen and his eyes cut. He was knocked out in the eighth by a right hook from Lewis. After the fight was over, George Foreman declared “He [Lewis] is, no doubt, the best heavyweight of all time. What he’s done clearly puts him on top of the heap.” Lewis was an HBO fighter and George Foreman often promoted HBO and their fighters during broadcasts.
This fight was the highest-grossing event in pay-per-view history, generating $106.9 million from 1.95 million buys in the U.S., until it was surpassed by De La Hoya-Mayweather in 2007.
Ticket sales were slow because they were priced as high as $2,400, but a crowd of 15,327 turned up to see the biggest sporting event ever in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Tyson also had to pay Lewis $335,000 out of his purse for biting him at the news conference to announce the fight, which was originally scheduled for April 6, 2002 in Las Vegas. Las Vegas, however, rejected the fight because of Tyson’s licensing problems and several other states refused Tyson a license before Memphis finally bid $12 million to land it.
Lewis vs. KlitschkoIn May 2003, Lewis sued boxing promoter Don King for $385 million, claiming that King used threats to have Tyson pull out of a rematch scheduled with Lewis then scheduled a fight with Kirk Johnson, but when Johnson suffered an injury in training, Lewis fought Vitali Klitschko, the WBC’s #1 contender and former WBO titlist at short notice. Lewis had planned to fight him in December, but since Klitschko had been on the undercard of the Johnson fight anyway, they agreed to square off on June 21. Lewis entered the ring at a career high 256½ pounds. Lewis was dominated in the early rounds and was wobbled in round two by solid Klitschko punches. Lewis opened a cut above Klitschko’s eye with a right cross in the third round and gave a better showing in the fourth round, and gaining the upper hand in fifth and sixth rounds. Before the start of round seven the doctor advised that the fight should be stopped because of a severe cut above Klitschko’s left eye, awarding Lewis victory by TKO. Klitschko was leading 58–56 on all three judges’ scorecards when the fight was stopped.
Interviewed about the fight by HBO, doctor Paul Wallace explained his decision:
“When he raised his head up, his upper eyelid covered his field of vision. At that point I had no other option but to stop the fight. If he had to move his head to see me, there was no way he could defend his way against a punch.”
Klitschko’s face required sixty stitches.
Because Klitschko had fought so bravely against Lewis, boxing fans soon began calling for a rematch. The WBC agreed, and kept the Ukrainian as its No. 1 contender. Lewis initially was in favour of a rematch:
“I want the rematch, I enjoyed that fight. It was just a fight. We went at it. You have to play dollars and cents but I’m opting more for the rematch.”
Negotiations for the rematch followed but Lewis changed his mind  Instead, Klitschko fought and defeated Kirk Johnson on December 6 in WBC Eliminator, setting up a mandatory rematch with Lewis. Lewis announced his retirement shortly thereafter and vacated the title. Lewis stated when he had decided not to fight:
“So, when it came time for me to see if I should fight Klitschko again, I thought – at my worst, at my worst! I beat Klitschko and look what I did to his face! I was at my worst – just think [what would’ve happened] if I’d trained just a little bit harder. I didn’t need to fight him again.”
Hanging up the gloves
Lewis at the premiere of Hereafter during the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.Lewis announced his retirement in February 2004 and decided to pursue other interests, including sports management and music promotion. Lewis said he would not return to the ring. At his retirement, Lewis’s record was 41 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw, with 32 wins by knockout. Though it was rumoured in an article published by the Daily Mail on the February 24 that he would return to fight Klitschko once again, Lewis quickly shot down those rumours on his personal website. In 2008 Lewis commented on a possible match up with Riddick Bowe. “He waits until I am in retirement to call out my name,” said Lewis. “I will come out of retirement to beat up that guy. I’ll beat him up for free.”
Along with Gene Tunney and Rocky Marciano he is one of three world heavyweight champions to have retired with no unavenged defeats.
Outside of boxingIn 2000, Lewis appeared on Reflection Eternal’s debut album Train of Thought, giving a shout out on the track “Down for the Count.”
In 2002, Lewis was reportedly offered £5m by WWE chairman Vince McMahon to take up wrestling with WWE. His camp held discussions over a possible match with former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar in February 2003, at the No Way Out pay-per-view event. He had borne the Union Flag for the British Bulldog before his match against Bret “The Hitman” Hart at SummerSlam in 1992.
In 2003, Lewis made a brief cameo appearance in the Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J video “All I Have”.
Lewis played in the World Series of Poker in both 2006 and 2007, and was knocked out without winning any money.
Lewis appeared on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice in 2008. He came in fourth place (out of 14).
Lewis has also done a public service announcement against domestic violence for Do Something.
In 2008, Lewis was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 2009, in his first year of eligibility, Lewis was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
On May 8, 2010, Lewis was let go by HBO as a commentator for Boxing After Dark.
In 2011 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
Lewis in January 2008Upon retiring from boxing, Lewis moved to Miami Beach with his wife, Violet Chang, a former Miss Jamaica runner-up. The couple have a daughter named Ling (born 2004), a son named Landon (born 2006) and in 2009 the couple welcomed their third child, a daughter. Lewis told AventuraUSA.com in 2007 that he is contemplating opening an “international boxing academy” and perhaps one day starting a record label, but contrary to rumours, he has yet to embark on either endeavour. Lewis supports the English football team West Ham United, the local team for the place of his birth.
Lewis is an avid amateur chess player, and funded an after-school chess program for disadvantaged youths, one of whom earned a university chess scholarship at Tennessee Tech.