1. BEFORE his July 15 shot at Lennox Lewis, the world heavyweight champion, unfancied challenger Frans Botha psyched himself up with some nasty thoughts. “I think of Lewis trying to prevent my family from eating or of him hitting my children,” said Botha. “That gives me the aggression I need.”
2. SHANNON BRIGGS, who had been held to a draw by the South African and knocked out in five by Lewis, was siding with the 34-year-old Englishman. “Botha is quite poised, but Lennox is by far the best boxer I’ve faced,” said Briggs. “Against me, Botha sat back and waited, picked his shots. Over-aggression will get him flattened. That’s an easy way to get your teeth knocked out.”
3. TICKETS for the London Arena show varied from £50 to £750 and the first bell was at 4.15pm to compensate for the 11-fight bill. There were wins for future world champions Wladimir Klitschko, Scott Harrison, and Clinton Woods on the undercard.
4. WOODS had been scheduled to take on Michael Nunn in a WBA light-heavyweight eliminator until the former champion pulled out with an injured right hand. Greg Scott-Briggs stepped in, and was duly halted inside three rounds.
5. LEWIS had not fought in London for six years. His previous visit was an unhappy one as he was stunned, and beaten, in two rounds by Oliver McCall in 1994.
6. THE likes of Chris Eubank, Linford Christie, Ian Wright, Andy Cole, Stan Collymore and US host Jerry Springer, were among the 12,000 crowd. Lewis put on quite a show, dominating the action before sending Botha lurching out of the ring and the contest in round two. Although nobody expected the visitor to win, the manner of Lennox’s victory left quite an impression to the experts who compared his dominance to the mid-80s reign of Mike Tyson.
7. THE spectre of that former champion loomed over Lewis’ victory parade. He had scored two quick-fire wins in Britain – over Julius Francis and a particularly mental mauling of Lou Savarese – to leave fans desperate for Lewis-Tyson. Lewis was not pleased, saying: “He [Tyson] has a fight with Lou Savarese and now Tyson’s saying he’s the best? Holyfield beat him twice. I’m the man at the top.”
8. BOTHA, a man who had offered excuses for his previous defeats (including one to Tyson), poor performances, and pleaded his innocence after being caught with steroids in his system, simply turned to Lewis after regaining his senses and said: “I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity. This sport needs people like you.”
9. DESPITE the emphatic 339-second hammering – 14 seconds less than Michael Grant had lasted in Lewis’ previous scrap – Botha refused to quit. He still wanted to become the first white undisputed heavyweight champion since Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson 40 years before. “It can only make me better,” he said about the loss. “I don’t want to lay down. This was a learning experience.”
10. FOURTEEN years later, Botha, now 45, remains an active fighter despite losing his last six. He has been on a steady decline since the Lewis loss. Lennox retired in 2003, as world champion, after beating Vitali Klitschko on cuts.