Comment by Paul Upham: The boxing landscape can change in the blink of an eye. After a report in the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper, the word quickly spread and sizzled around the world, "Lennox is coming back!" HBO Pay-Per-View vice-president Mark Taffet must have choked on his breakfast cereal as he browsed the web, reading that he would be paying the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world a whopping US$40million for a fight in November.
But any immediate excitement that the current state of the heavyweight division could be salvaged with a Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko rematch was extinguished, when Lewis issued a media statement that he was not making a comeback after all. Who was right and who was wrong? Only Lewis and the Daily Mirror know for sure.
Earlier in the day, I discussed with a buddy of mine the merits of Lennox' decision to return and lamented that he may not join the exclusive heavyweight champion ranks of Gene Tunney and Rock Marciano in retiring as champion and not being tempted back.
"Yeah, but Rocky Marciano was never offered $40 million to get back into the ring," my friend replied. Good point. The money being mentioned was so huge, that considering the impact on Lewis' legacy was simply an afterthought. 'So what if Lewis came back and lost to Klitschko. $40 million dollars is $40 million dollars', I thought.
When he retired early in 2004, I thought Lennox Lewis was showing us all once again how smart he is. After his win over Tyson, Lewis was only hanging around for a Tyson rematch and another large payday at low risk. He got stuck with a stay busy fight with Kirk Johnson waiting for Tyson, which turned into a bloody battle with Klitschko, when the Canadian pulled out injured.
In the grand plan of Lewis, the Klitschko fight was never meant to happen. He was banking on two fights with Tyson, then strutting off into the sunset. The sloppy win over Klitschko simply complicated his retirement plans. It was obvious that Lewis had not trained properly for Johnson. He was now at the stage of his career where physically and mentally he could never be at his best again. When judging the age of heavyweights, too much consideration is given to George Foreman winning the heavyweight championship at the age of 45. Big George was unique in that he was still strong enough at his age to take the beating he did, before landing the one right hand home run punch on Michael Moorer. It will be many, many years before that happens again, if ever. Foreman was a freak of nature.
The fact is Lewis legitimately won his fight with Klitschko. The serious eye cut that stopped the giant from Ukraine was caused by a Lewis right hand. The time had then come and Lewis made the correct decision to retire. As much as many boxing fans would love to have him back, it is time for us all to move on and lets hope that the true heavyweight champion from the existing ranks can emerge this year after a series of fight and truly dominate the division. Vitali Klitschko facing Hasim Rahman is a good starting point and the best place for Lennox Lewis is at ringside calling the action.