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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 09:36 GMT
Lewis: Good but not great
Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali at Sports Personality of the Year in 1999
Lennox Lewis with Muhammad Ali, the greatest of all
Following his victory over Hasim Rahman, BBC Sport Online's Alex Trickett places Lennox Lewis in the pantheon of all-time heavyweight legends.

Lennox Lewis can now be considered among the best heavyweights to ever glove up.

A splendid fourth-round win over Hasim Rahman earned him that right on a jubilant Saturday night in Las Vegas.

It made the 36-year-old Briton only the third boxer - after Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield - to win the heavyweight title for a third time.

Joe Louis
Bown Bomber: Dominant

But how does Lewis compare to those fighters and to other icons of the past?

Ali is in a different class, although he was in a privileged position.

The quality of the fighters around him gave him ample opportunity to impress.

But his victory over the fearsome George Foreman in 1974 was truly astounding, bringing out of him reserves of guile and guts that Lewis has yet to find.

Tracking back further into boxing history, the legend of Joe Louis looms large.

Rocky Marciano
Rocky: Unbeaten champion

His record-breaking, ten-year reign as heavyweight champion lifts him to another level.

While Lewis has been criticised for plodding to victory, the "Brown Bomber" destroyed his division, picking his way past a succession of "bum of the month" contenders in the 1930s and 1940s.

Boxing historians rate highly intimidators like Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey and Sonny Liston.

But if Lewis' record stands comparison with these champions, it pales alongside that of Rocky Marciano, the only unbeaten heavyweight king.

A bruising competitor, Marciano went 49-0 in his professional career, beating Louis, Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore along the way.

Larry Holmes' record also sets him apart from Lewis.

Mike Tyson in 1989
Tyson was still lean and mean in the 1980s

He dominated from 1978-85, successfully defending his heavyweight title 20 times before losing it to Michael Spinks.

More recently, Holyfield and Mike Tyson have set the benchmark.

Holyfield - who like Lewis regained the world title twice - is helped by high-profile wins over Tyson.

Tyson, meanwhile, will be remembered for the explosive punching which propelled him to stardom as a raw 20-year-old.

Few fighters lasted two rounds with 'Iron Mike', and the 1980s talk was of him becoming the greatest pugilist to ever step in a ring.

Although he fell short of that mark, Tyson still distinguished himself in a way that Lewis may never achieve.

At 6ft 5in and more than 17 stone, "Super Lennox" is one of the biggest boxers in history.

Evander Holyfield in 1992
Real Deal: Evander Holyfield

But he will not be remembered as one of its very best.

Victory over Tyson would improve his status - if the fight ever happens - but memories of uninspiring wins against lesser opponents will linger in critical minds.

In some ways, Lewis has been unlucky.

He has not ducked fights, but has yet to meet another ring legend at the peak of his power - the win against Holyfield came too late in both men's careers.

Lower tier

Lewis wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Ali, Louis and Marciano.

That may happen for as long as he keeps the heavyweight title.

Five years after he retires, however, his name will fall from boxing's highest order.

Lewis will join a lower tier of very good champions who were never truly great.

Links to more Boxing stories are at the foot of the page.


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