Lewis defends crown with 8th-round KO

May 07, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Promoter Don King once cracked that World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis could walk through Times Square in rush hour and remain invisible.

But the unbeaten Briton looked like a tower of strength last night in destroying Phil Jackson, of Miami, at 1:35 of the eighth round at Convention Hall.

Lewis (25-0, 21 KOs) said fighting a 10-1 underdog like Jackson was a no-win proposition. But after looking less than impressive in his first two title defenses, against Tony Tucker and British rival Frank Bruno, Lewis improved his reputation in this overwhelming performance.

"I thought I performed well," Lewis, 28, said with typical British understatement. "I'm very happy. I definitely wanted to show the American fight fans that there is more to Lennox Lewis the fighter than they've seen in the past.

"I did exactly what I set out to do," he said. "I realized Jackson's head motion would slow down once I got my jab going."

Jackson, who admitted quitting against Razor Ruddock in his first major fight two years ago, showed tremendous heart in lasting as long as he did last night. But the former street fighter simply could not match his British rival in speed, power or boxing ability.

His trainer, Pat Burns, a police sergeant in Miami, had said before the fight that the Jackson camp had spotted a weakness in Lewis's armor.

But if that was the case, Jackson was never able to capitalize on it.

"It looks easier when you watch a guy on tape than when you're in there with a giant," said the battered loser, now 30-2.

Lewis, 6 feet 5, 235 pounds, fully used his sizable height and reach advantages over the stocky 6-0, 218-pound Jackson. He took command in the opening minute of the scheduled 12-rounder before an announced crowd of 5,507.

He floored Jackson with a right hand about 30 seconds into the fight. But instead of going for a quick kill, the 28-year-old champion stuck to his game plan, setting up his American rival for right hands and combinations with a rapier-like jab.

Lewis almost finished the job in the fifth round, again dropping Jackson with a classic three-punch combination.

Jackson recovered, but when Lewis continued his assault long after the bell, referee Arthur Mercante ordered the judges to penalize him a point.

Jackson fought back gamely in the sixth and seventh rounds, but was clearly outclassed. A jarring uppercut by Lewis put his rival's chin in perfect position to catch the final left-right combination.

Looking ahead, an unmarked Lewis said, "I have Oliver McCall in a mandatory [bout] next, but I don't think I'll gain complete respect until I unify the title."

That would mean fighting IBF and WBA champion Michael Moorer, who was a ringside witness.

"Moorer won't get respect until he fights me," Lewis said. "But I think fight fans now realize that I'm the true champion."

Dan Duva, of Main Events, Inc., which promoted the fight, said that in meetings yesterday Moorer and his representatives indicated a willingness to fight Lewis. Realistically, this will not happen until late 1994 or the spring of 1995.

First, there is the business of McCall, and purse bids open May 16.

Said Lewis' manager, Frank Maloney, "We'd like to fight McCall as soon as possible, preferably in London."

Lewis, who felt cheated of a megabucks match against Evander Holyfield before he lost his two title belts to Moorer, was guaranteed $4 million last night. Jackson received a reported $565,000.

Unbeaten WBC featherweight champion Kevin Kelley, of Flushing, N.Y., survived a second-round knockdown to dominate Jesse Benavides, of Corpus Christi, Texas, over the last 10 rounds in the first defense of his title.

Kelley (38-0, 26 KOs) repeatedly staggered Benavides, but he could not floor the rugged Texan.

Cognizant of how Terry Norris, Julio Cesar Chavez, Evander Holyfield and his New York buddy, former bantamweight king Junior Jones, had recently lost their titles, Kelley kept constant pressure on Benavides.

He utilized his stinging jab and bristling left hooks to keep Benavides on the defensive most of the fight.

Initially, Benavides (37-4-1, 25 KOs) had problems solving his left-handed opponent, but he caught the champion with an overhand left early in the second round, sending him to the canvas.

Kelley was momentarily stunned, but he quickly recovered to finish the second round with a flurry.

The three judges favored Kelley by margins of 117-111, 116-111

and 116-112.

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