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Sunday, March 14, 1999 Published at 05:48 GMT

Shock draw in Lewis-Holyfield fight

Lewis was disgusted with outcome

Lennox Lewis said he was "robbed" as his fight with Evander Holyfield for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world ended in a highly controversial draw at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Don King and Lewis' promoter Panos Eliades argue over the result
The result means that each fighter keeps his own version of the world title - Holyfield the IBF and WBA belts and Lewis the WBC - and raises the prospect of a rematch in six months time.

It is likely to be held at the Yankee Stadium, also in New York.

BBC Sports Correspondent Paul Newman: "This is the result no-one wanted"
In a fight of rapidly shifting fortunes that went the full 12 rounds, many of the pundits had the British fighter clearly outpointing his veteran American opponent.

A disgusted Lewis stormed out of the ring without commenting as the American judge scored for Holyfield 115-113, the neutral South African scored for Lewis 116-113 and the British judge Larry O'Connell called a draw at 115-115.

Lewis vs Holyfield
Commenting later, he said: "I just can't believe the outcome. I felt he won two rounds at most. There should now be an automatic rematch, but I doubt if he will want to face me again."

Manager Frank Maloney described it as "the biggest liberty in the history of boxing".

"It is down to the influence of crooked people in this sport. If I were Lennox, then after this disgrace I would retire," he said.

Evander Holyfield: "Whenever it comes down to a decision, it never goes my way"
Close to tears, Lewis's trainer Emanuel Steward said his fighter would be forced to accept the decision, but added: "This is what is killing boxing."

Holyfield's body language at the final bell suggested he felt beaten, as his opponent threw his arms in the air and jumped up and down.

[ image: Lewis started strongly]
Lewis started strongly
Even the raw statistics of the fight strongly suggested the bout belonged to the British boxer. Lewis threw 348 punches that connected to Holyfield's 130, and he landed 137 jabs to the American's 52.

Speaking from the ring, the American champion said he would welcome a rematch and refused to be drawn on the result, saying: "I'm not the judges."

Lewis appeared to create a solid lead in the first nine rounds and even rallied for the twelfth after appearing to fade rapidly in the tenth and eleventh.

To chants of "Lewis, Lewis", the British hope's best spells came in the second and fifth rounds when he seriously rattled the American champion with a devastating series of jabs.

Lewis picked up

But Holyfield - widely regarded as one of the best fighters of all time - recovered time and again to trouble Lewis and occasionally make him look tired.

And in two bizarre incidents, the American appeared first to lift Lewis up in round one and secondly to drag him crashing to the canvas in round seven.

Lennox Lewis: "He looked like an old man"
Lewis himself fought the entire bout with what looked to be an abnormally high waist-guard that almost completely covered his stomach.

Somewhat prematurely described as "the last great fight of the millennium", the $19m bout sought to unify the three versions of the heavyweight title - last held simultaneously by American Riddick Bowe in 1992.

There has not been an undisputed British heavyweight champion of the world this century.

Singing gospel

Following a 10-count tribute to the recently-deceased baseball great Joe DiMaggio, both boxers came out to the ecstatic cheers of a capacity 20,000 audience - an estimated 7,000 of whom were British.

BBC Boxing Correspondent John Rawling: "Sometimes it's a crazy world"
But before the fight began, Lewis was held up by fight fans blocking his route to the ring. There was even a moment when it looked as if the British fighter might become involved in scuffles with the crowd.

Holyfield, a devout Christian, emerged singing gospel songs at the top of his voice.

Lewis, 33, weighed in at an awesome 245lbs on a 6'5" frame, compared to the smaller, lighter, 36-year-old Holyfield, two-and-a-half inches shorter and tipping the scales at 215lbs.

Was Lennox Lewis robbed? Tell us what you think.


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