By Clive Bernath
First of all, I’d like to humbly apologise to Lennox Lewis for doubting his ability in regaining the heavyweight championship of the world against American Hasim Rahman last weekend. In my column last week entitled Is Lewis mentally alert for Rahman? - I doubted whether or not his mind was on the job, considering all the out of the ring distractions with his former manager and promoter, not to mention Rahman, who attempted to get under Lewis’ skin at every opportunity. Well, I could not have been more wrong and, to be honest, I favoured the Baltimore big mouth to retain the titles he won from Lewis back in April. So double humble pie must be consumed. For me, this was Lewis’ greatest win of his 41-fight career.
Before you say, ‘Don’t overdo the humble pie line’, let me explain. Firstly, I fully agree Rahman is no Evander Holyfield, Oliver McCall, Ray Mercer or even the very dangerous Razor Ruddock. But let’s be honest, for every one of us that said Lewis would be in shape this time and claim his titles back, there were those of us who thought he was past his sell by date, and that Rahman would repeat his fifth round knockout win of South Africa. There were valid points for both in equal measure.
Secondly, the London-born heavyweight not only beat ‘Has-been’ - he totally crushed him by winning every second of every round, with a dogged determination and complete focus that only the very best of fighters have the ability to do.
Thirdly, what some people will not have realised, outside of boxing circles, was that Lewis’ former promoter Panos Eliades was sitting in New York, suing his former fighter for hundreds of millions of dollars. That coupled with the somewhat disgraceful display of disrespect by Rahman towards Lewis in the build-up, and the split with manager Frank Maloney 11 days before the fight, must have played on his mind.
We must also not forget that, at the age of 36, Lewis, who has beaten everyone put in front of him, was quite entitled to hang up his gloves and count his money after South Africa. He is a very wealthy man, having shared the lucrative spoils of 15 world title fights before the Rahman rematch.
All that considered, I think Lewis has totally vindicated himself. And while we are on the subject of munching through vast amounts of pie, I also mentioned last week that Lewis may have blown any chance he may have had of entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Why? Because of the way in which he disrespected the heavyweight title by not preparing properly for Rahman the first time.
Not now, Lewis is bang on course after crushing Rahman in the manner he did. And if he does face former undisputed heavyweight king Mike Tyson and defeat him, it is only a matter of time before the invite lands on his doormat. The Tyson fight is another story to be saved for another day. For now, Lewis is entitled to bask in the glory of his triumph, he’s certainly earned it.
One fighter who did not do himself justice however on the Las Vegas undercard was Londoner Howard Eastman, who failed to land the vacant WBA middleweight crown from former two-time champion William Joppy. The immensely talented 30-year-old lost out to the American on a majority decision, despite flooring Joppy in the last round.
While Eastman thought he that done enough to clinch the title I think the judges just about got it right. It was the first time the Guyanese-born fighter had fought outside the UK and Joppy was certainly a vast step up in class.
Eastman is said to be distraught with his first career loss in 33 fights, but that should not be the case. All he lacked was experience and that was the difference. Hopefully, there can be an immediate rematch and, if that happens, I feel the Briton will become victorious and go on to prove just what a great fighter he really is.