LENNOX LEWIS waited to prove everyone wrong. He had been knocked out by Hasim Rahman in one of the biggest upsets in history, his world title gone and his reputation in tatters. Plenty picked against him in the rematch. Lewis was finished, they said.
“Can you believe people were predicting that Rahman would win that rematch?” Lewis asks Boxing News. “But I don’t blame them. They thought the chink in the armour is there forever. You lose one fight and they write you off. People were asking me what I was gonna do now. What am I gonna do now? What am I gonna do now? I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do now. I’m gonna go and get my belts back, that’s what I’m gonna to do. But people presumed it was the end for me.”
Some presume that the knockdown Tyson Fury suffered in the last round of his December 2018 bout with Deontay Wilder has already triggered the end of Tyson Fury. Effectively knocked out, Fury woke up just in time to finish the fight on his feet. But the clanging punches that put him to sleep could yet haunt him.
Lewis doesn’t agree. He entered his return with Rahman – a glorious fourth round triumph – a confident man, spurred on by the desire to right a wrong and Lewis believes that Fury will be galvanised by the experience of not only finding his feet against Wilder, but fighting back.
“Tyson Fury will be feeding off positiveness,” Lewis explained. “He knows he took that punch, he went down, but he got to his feet and then he went after Deontay. He basically said, ‘What, was that it? You knocked me down but I’m still here, still coming after you. I felt you go weak because I found my strength.’ He attacked Wilder when he got up but maybe he left it too late. He now knows what he can do. He now has a lot of belief in himself and he thinks he can go out there and bully Wilder.”
Lewis’ ring walk ahead of flattening Rahman was a sight to behold. There was no fear, no concern whatsoever, about facing a man who had shown he had the power to hurt him.
“The funny thing, and you’ll see this in my upcoming documentary, is I dance in the changing room before a fight,” Lewis recalls about those moments before his revenge mission. “I dance to reggae music and catch the vibe in there. By the time I’m walking to the ring, I’m crazy, and you’re in trouble.
“After being knocked out, a lot of people will tell you you’re gun shy. Look at what happened in the first fight, they say, he’s going to be gun shy, he’s going to be scared to exchange. You remember all that.
“They are saying that about Fury and they said it about me. What they didn’t understand was that I was waiting – from the moment the first fight was over – to get back in there and show everyone I’m not gun shy. I will show everyone that the first fight was false. The guy hit me with a great shot, which my chin happened to be in the way of, but that’s not going to happen to me again.”
Fury must be careful next time. Lewis – who also defeated Oliver McCall and Evander Holyfield in sequels – fears that Fury ‘will do something mad’ in the early going of Saturday night’s rematch inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Instead, he implores Fury to stick to what he does best.
“Tyson Fury will do something mad and go after Deontay in the first couple of rounds,” the former world heavyweight king predicts. “When he doesn’t get no glory with that he’ll resort back to his boxing – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In the first fight he was leading on points and I believe it’s important for Fury to establish that control early.”
Retaining that control – and concentration – for the full 12 rounds is key to Fury snatching the WBC heavyweight title from Wilder. But Lewis warned that just because it may appear that the champion is losing rounds, it doesn’t mean he will then lose the fight. Lewis has been impressed with Wilder, even when it appears, to the untrained eye, that things are not going his way.
“Fury has to win rounds in a way that Wilder does not,” Lewis says. “Wilder will lose rounds. He lost first six rounds in the Luis Ortiz rematch. But what a lot of people didn’t realise is that Wilder was the first in the middle of the ring, waiting for Ortiz, and nobody really mentioned that. He was in excellent shape and look what he was doing to Ortiz. He was making him tired, physically and mentally.”
“There is 12 rounds to this fight. Only when it is over can the winner celebrate.”
BT Sport Box Office will show Tyson Fury’s highly anticipated rematch with Deontay Wilder, exclusively live on Saturday 22nd February. Wilder v Fury 2 can be watched on BT TV, the BT Sport Box Office App, Sky, Virgin Media TV and TalkTalk TV or online: bt.com/sportboxoffice