Lewis now has respect to accompany WBC title After fast win over Golota, Lewis silences his critics

October 06, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- For the brief period he has owned a piece of the fragmented heavyweight title, Lennox Lewis had gotten no respect. Not in his English homeland, and even less from boxing critics on this side of the Atlantic.

But all that changed in 95 electrifying seconds at Convention Hall Saturday night, when Lewis stopped Andrew Golota in successfully defending his World Boxing Council crown.

Now everyone is jumping aboard the Lewis bandwagon, wanting a piece of the 32-year-old champion who may have the explosive punching power to resurrect a near-moribund heavyweight division, which is searching for another Mike Tyson.

Lewis' ultimate goal is to challenge the winner of the Evander Holyfield-Michael Moorer championship bout Wednesday to unify the title.

A Lewis-Holyfield bout could earn Lewis between $20-25 million, according to his manager, Frank Maloney, who was appropriately decked out in a suit fashioned after the British flag.

"That probably won't happen until early next summer," Maloney said. "If that's the case, I'd prefer to keep Lennox busy with an interim match. You saw the result of his hard work in training camp in this fight."

Should Moorer again upset Holyfield, the powers behind the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association might force him to make a mandatory defense against Vaughn Bean, Frans Botha or Orlin Norris, who is making his case in a court battle with promoter Don King.

"That's all nonsense," said Lou DiBella, vice president of programming for Home Box Office, the parent company of TVKO, which carries the lucrative pay-per-view events.

"These boxing organizations should wake up at last and realize the public wants to see the best fighters compete. It's the best thing for the sport, and that's how we're going to approach the future, regardless of what the WBA and IBF might say."

Main Events president Dino Duva said he has promotional agreements with Lewis, Holyfield and Moorer, and should not face any obstacles in staging a unifying bout.

It should also be an easy sell with Lewis finally gaining international recognition.

"I always said he was the best heavyweight in the world," said veteran trainer Emanuel Steward, who has rekindled Lewis' fighting spirit. "He's a puncher first, and now he's as aggressive as when I first saw him on the street."

Said rival trainer Lou Duva: "Forget all the pre-fight publicity. Lennox Lewis is a great champion. And if I had to make a choice, I'd say he is the best in the world today.

"To me, it was amazing that Golota got up after the first time Lennox knocked him down. He caught him with a tremendous right hand, and then showed the killer instinct to finish the job."

There was little on Lewis' boxing resume to prepare the crowd of 13,389 and a worldwide audience for such an overpowering performance.

Previously, Lewis' most noteworthy victory had been a second-round knockout of Razor Ruddock five years ago, after Ruddock had been softened up by Tyson.

Lewis gained the WBC title for the first time by default after Riddick Bowe trashed his championship belt. After Lewis suffered a humiliating knockout by Oliver McCall in 1994, he reclaimed the then-vacant title in Las Vegas last February, when McCall broke down in tears and offered no resistance.

Then, in July, he benefited from a fifth-round disqualification when fellow Brit Henry Akinwande refused to fight.

Lewis definitely had something to prove against Golota, who was close to an even-money bet to become Poland's first world champion. And his intensity and resolve showed when he met Golota in mid-ring at the sound of the opening bell.

"Lennox was claiming his territory," Maloney said. "He was making it clear to Golota that he was there to fight from the get-go. And when he landed that first big right, I knew it was over."

Lewis knocked Golota down twice. After the second knockdown, referee Joe Cortez started to count, then signaled the fight was finished.

Lewis said: "I just wanted to go in there and take care of things. I didn't want to give him a chance to fight dirty."

The champion was referring to Golota's previous two fights with Bowe, which ended in his disqualification for repeated low blows. But Golota never got started Saturday night, wilting under a relentless barrage of punches.

"There was too much pressure," he said after being helped to his corner. "I was too nervous."

Golota hugged Lou Duva and apologized for his quick demise.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," he said.

After looking like the next hot heavyweight in twice destroying Bowe before the untimely fouls, Golota's future is now in doubt.

"I'll let Andrew decide what he wants to do," Lou Duva said. "Let him talk to his wife and see if his heart is still in it."

Minutes after the fight, Golota collapsed in his dressing room and was taken to Atlantic City Medical Center. The hospital did not release a diagnosis. But Golota, described as awake and alert after passing a CAT scan, was released yesterday morning.

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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