Lewis pulls no punches on ability

May 05, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It was one of those little farces that have become so predictable in professional boxing when ticket sales are lagging. Only this time, World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis of England and challenger Phil Jackson of Miami, who clash at Convention Center tomorrow night, were not acting.

On Tuesday, both fighters had scheduled light workouts in a makeshift ring at the Trump Regency. Jackson was to have trained from noon to 2 p.m., with Lewis to follow.

But when Lewis' camp coordinator, Ollie Dunlap, discovered the ring vacant at 1 p.m., the champion opted to train earlier.

The fighters and their entourages arrived at the same time, each claiming territorial rights and making the ring look like it held a tag-team wrestling match.

"Your fighter's not training as long as I'm in this ring," Jackson's publicist, Dave Metzger, shouted at Lewis' trainer, Pepe Correa, after a headfirst fall into the ring.

Countered Correa: "Then we'll knock you out, just like your canvas-back fighter."

Ultimately, Team Jackson gave ground, retreating to a ballroom a floor below. But Lewis' manager, Frank Maloney, seemed intent on building the incident into another Revolutionary War.

"This was typical American arrogance. They think everything belongs to them," said Maloney, a short former amateur champion. "And now they're frightened of losing their grip on the heavyweight crown. They're afraid that Lennox is going to take it back across the pond, and they'll never get it back."

Warming to the subject, Maloney added: "Why do Americans publicize cowards like [newly crowned International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association champion] Michael Moorer and Riddick Bowe when neither seems willing to fight Lennox?

"Moorer had his title handed to him by a man with a bad heart, and even then, he didn't want to take it. And now he says he's not interested in unifying the title."

The British are defensive about their fighting stock. And Maloney bristles when veteran American boxing writers label Lewis as a paper champion after his unimpressive, 12-round victory over Tony Tucker and a battle of survival with the suddenly dangerous Frank Bruno in his two title defenses.

English heavyweights have been held in disrepute for good reason, with the likes of Phaintin' Phil Scott, Richard Dunn, Brian London, Joe Bugner and Bruno serving as willing punching bags for American rivals.

As satirist Dorothy Parker once wrote, "If all the British heavyweights were laid end to end, we wouldn't be surprised."

Even the British get in their own digs. Before Bruno challenged Mike Tyson in 1989, British boxing writer Colin Hart said: "To paraphrase Churchill talking about Clement Atlee, Bruno is a wonderful, modest fellow. And as a boxer, he has a lot to be modest about."

But Lewis (24-0) has no false modesty, although he became a world champion in 1992 only after then-undisputed king Bowe trashed his WBC belt. Lewis and Razor Ruddock fought for the vacant title, and Lewis scored a second-round KO.

Meanwhile, Bowe lost his title in a rematch with Holyfield, who lost it to Moorer last month.

"Those other titles keep changing hands," said Lewis, "and that proves that I'm the best boxer out there.

"Who's Moorer? He never won an Olympic gold medal, like I did. And can you believe he needed his trainer [Teddy Atlas] to

motivate him to become heavyweight champion? All I want is an opportunity to hit him."

If Lewis, a 16-1 favorite, dispenses with Jackson, he faces a mandatory defense this fall against Oliver McCall. A showdown with Moorer is not likely until spring 1995, and Maloney's running feud with Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, has put that fight on hold.

"After the Bowe fight, I told Lennox, 'Forget the media. The only people you have to impress is yourself and your corner,' " Correa said. "But why does he have to defend himself? All he does is win."

But Lewis is British. And with a stiff upper lip, he says: "You Americans will see a different Lennox Lewis than you've seen in the past."

FIGHT FACTS

Who: Lennox Lewis (24-0, 20 KOs), London, vs. Phil Jackson (30-1, 27 KOs), Miami

What: 12 rounds, for Lewis' World Boxing Council heavyweight title

Where: Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center

When: Tomorrow night, estimated start 11 p.m.

TV: HBO, first fight, 10 p.m.

Tickets: $25 to $250

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