November 17, 2016
November 17, 2016
Lennox Lewis

Action Images/Reuters/Rick Wilking

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REVENGE was at the forefront of Lennox Lewis’ mind on November 17, 2001 when he entered a rematch with Hasim Rahman at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas. Rahman had scored a huge upset in April, when he knocked out an under-prepared Lewis in South Africa to claim the WBC and IBF heavyweight titles. “I’ve learned from my mistakes,” said 36-year-old Lennox. “I was lackadaisical when I got caught last time. I don’t believe it can happen again.”

RAHMAN, thoroughly enjoying the publicity and attention garnered from his victory, was making plans to clear out the division. “I’ll beat Lewis again and [then] people will say I can’t beat [Mike] Tyson. “I’ll beat Tyson and people will say I can’t defeat Wladimir Klitschko.”

THREE months before the sequel the duo engaged in a scuffle at the ESPN television studios just outside Los Angeles. It was not a rehearsed brawl, and heightened the bad blood between the fighters and demand for the return. Typically, Lewis tried to downplay the incident: “All that really matters is who wins when we get in the ring and no amount of talking is going to make a difference.”

THERE were some concerns that Lewis – just like the first time round – would be distracted. The former champion had publicly split from manager Frank Maloney, and former promoter Panos Eliades was making a massive claim for damages.

EAGER to repeat his success, Rahman fought carelessly and paid the price. Lewis, who circled away from Rahman’s right early on, stepped in menacingly in the fourth. A bombastic right hand, fired after a wayward left hook had edged the American into range, dropped the champion and that was that. Rahman fell flat on his back, instinctively tried to stand only to collapse face first where he was counted out. But Lewis knew his punch was a match-winner the moment it landed and was banging his chest in celebration before the count was completed.

AFTERWARDS Lewis claimed he senses uncertainty in Rahman in the build-up. “I saw a little twinkle in his eye,” said the Briton. “I have been dreaming all week of changing Hasim Rahman into Has-Been Rahman. I said the belts were on loan. He’s had his 15 minutes of glory.”

LEWIS, who beforehand had spoke of boxing patiently, claimed afterwards an early finish had always been part of the gameplan. “I definitely wasn’t gun-shy,” he explained. “I wanted to knock him out quicker than he’d beaten me. This is very satisfying. A lot of people had counted me out. They said I was too old, but I went out and did it.”

RAHMAN, the fuel for his earlier bravado removed, was sporting in defeat. “I didn’t see the punch coming,” he said. “I think it wasn’t only his jab, it was his distance, his footwork. He fought a good fight. He must have studied the tapes pretty good. He came back. He’s a true champion. Now it’s up to me to come back.”

ON the undercard, London’s Howard Eastman came close to dethroning WBA middleweight champion William Joppy. It looked to some like the challenger had done enough, particularly after he scored a knockdown in the final round but the judges sided with Joppy who claimed a majority decision.

LEWIS invited Eastman to share the stage with him after their fights. “I saw Howard fighting Joppy when I was in my dressing room,” Lennox said. “I saw him drop Joppy with a right hand. I heard Joppy said he was going to make Howard’s white beard red, but Howard showed him.”

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