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Sunday, November 14, 1999 Published at 04:30 GMT

Lewis crowned undisputed champ

Lennox Lewis: "I went through some trials and tribulations"

British fighter Lennox Lewis has been crowned the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world with a unanimous points decision over Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas.

The BBC's John Rawling: "If this had been given a draw then there would have been far fewer complaints"
Lewis is the first British undisputed heavyweight champion - unifying the IBF, WBA and WBC titles - since Bob Fitzsimmons exactly 100 years ago.

He was cheered on by 6,000 British fans who chanted: "There's only one Lennox Lewis."

But there was controversy after the fight as it emerged that a $300,000 cheque for the IBF to sanction the rematch had been rejected, technically leaving that belt unclaimed.

In a gripping 12 rounds of boxing, Lewis used his superior reach to consistently torment his veteran opponent, despite producing what was arguably a below-par performance.

But Holyfield, famed for his durability and never-say-die attitude, came back into the fight in the seventh round to rattle the Briton and set up a scintillating finale.

Lewis v Holyfield The sequel
It was a result that will do much to restore the credibility of the sport that has brought upon itself more than its fair share of controversies - not least the drawn result in the first Lewis-Holyfield encounter last March.

Lennox Lewis: "It was more difficult this time round"
Speaking after the fight, Lewis said: "I went through some trials and tribulations.

"Enough people were trying to stop me. The American people didn't want me to take the titles over the Atlantic to Britain, but I persevered and succeeded."

Ferocious punching

Devout Christian Holyfield, who at 37 is nearing the end of his boxing days, made no announcements about his future, saying: "Right now I've got to go back and pray and see what needs to be done.

[ image: Lewis is congratulated by his mother]
Lewis is congratulated by his mother
"Everyone is disappointed when things don't go their way, but life is life."

In front of a star-studded audience that included Bruce Willis and Prince Naseem Hamed, Lewis emerged first to rapturous cheers from the 6,000 British fight fans who had flooded into the Nevada gaming capital.

Lewis comfortably took the first five rounds, using good combinations of hooks and jabs to out-point Holyfield and keep him beyond the range where his famously ferocious punching could be effective.

Even so, by round six it was clear that the rematch was already a much better fight than its March predecessor.

'Wrestling' round

But controversy reigned once again as Holyfield rushed in with his head and Lewis - clearly unhappy - responded by grappling his smaller opponent against the ropes, nearly carrying him out of the ring.

[ image: Round seven was a toe-to-toe thriller]
Round seven was a toe-to-toe thriller
The referee called a time-out and berated both boxers for "wrestling".

Lewis was cut above the right eye during the exchange - he later accused the American of "butting" - and appeared unsteady on his feet as Holyfield connected with a thunderous left midway through the seventh.

He looked rattled, dropping his arms and taking another series of rights and lefts as the American hunted him around the ring.

The British fighter said after the match that he was "just playing" to sap his opponent's energy, and his analysis appeared to be born out as he recovered to produce a grandstand finish to the round with some toe-to-toe exchanges.

Powerful counter-punch

Holyfield's ascendancy survived for the next two rounds as he drew Lewis into his close-in style of boxing, but by round 10 the British fighter had re-established his range.

The BBC's Garry Richardson interviews Evander Holyfield at his post-fight party
Just before the bell, he caught the American veteran with a powerful right counter-punch that left Holyfield looking drained as he limped back to his corner.

Round 11 was Lewis's again, but the final three minutes proved inconclusive as the Briton tired badly and Holyfield tried to find that elusive finishing punch.

It was not to be as a tense-looking Lewis - mindful of the judges' decision in his last bout with Holyfield - punched the air to celebrate what was an historic, if not outstanding win.

Judge Jerry Roth scored the match 115-113, Chuck Giampa 116-112, and Bob Graham 117-111.

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In this section

Lewis crowned undisputed champ

Belt row mars Lewis victory

The big fight in pictures

Lewis-Holyfield II: Round by round

Fight game in need of kiss of life

A century of boxing controversy

Lewis: The rise of a champ

God's warrior nearing the final bell

Fight one: Round by round

What they said

Holyfield - career record

Lewis - career record

Tale of the tape

Lewis crowned king