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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Lewis gives up IBF belt
Lennox Lewis on his way to beating Mike Tyson
Lewis beat Mike Tyson earlier this summer
Lennox Lewis has given up his International Boxing Federation heavyweight title after deciding not to fight mandatory challenger Chris Byrd.

It means that the prospect of Lewis facing a rematch with Mike Tyson is now much more likely.

Lewis had faced a deadline of Thursday to agree to a match-up with Byrd but issued a statement detailing why he felt the American offered him no challenge.

"If I were to fight Chris Byrd, my likely next IBF mandatory defence would be against an opponent [David Tua, Evander Holyfield or Hasim Rahman] that I have already beaten," added Lewis.


Lennox Lewis has proved himself to be less of a champion than we had all hoped
Chris Byrd's lawyer John Hornewer

"The fact is that the champion makes the belt important, not the other way round.

"Accordingly, in light of a court order and an IBF ruling that would have required me to fight a meaningless fight against Chris Byrd in order to keep the IBF belt, I had no choice but to vacate.

"As I have recently stated, the world has yet to see the best of Lennox Lewis."

The decision leaves Lewis, who once held all versions of the heavyweight crown - with just the World Boxing Council belt.

And it would appear to prove that the 37-year-old plans to carry on fighting, something he had hinted at last week.

Lewis is believed to be in negotiations about a new three-fight deal involving a rematch against Mike Tyson and defences against the Ukrainian Klitschko brothers.

The first fight would reportedly be against 26-year-old Vitali Klitschko in the United States in December.

Chris Byrd in action
Lewis says Byrd would not challenge him
A rematch with Tyson could follow next April, with a tougher test against WBO champion Vladimir Klitschko in the autumn.

Byrd is now set to fight former champion Evander Holyfield, 40, for the vacant IBF title.

Byrd's lawyer John Hornewer criticised Lewis, saying his fighter had earned the chance to fight him.

"This is a guy who fought for this opportunity. He earned it, he's waited his turn and done everything he's been asked to do," told BBC Radio Five Live.

"Yet in the end Lennox Lewis has decided 'that's not for me'. That's not what a champion does.

"Unfortunately Lennox Lewis has proved himself to be less of a champion than we had all hoped."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's John Rawling
"Lewis is likely to sign a three-fight deal with HBO"
Chris Byrd's lawyer John Hornewer
"Lewis is less of a champion than we hoped"
Lewis' former manager Frank Maloney
"It's a purely business decision"
See also:

05 Sep 02 | Boxing
30 Aug 02 | Boxing
09 Jun 02 | Lewis v Tyson fight
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