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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis WBC heavyweight champion

It is a testament to his dominance as champion that the recently-retired Lennox Lewis leaves behind him a heavyweight division lacking direction.

The Canada-bred Briton stamped his authority on all legitimate rivals, winning 41 out of 44 pro fights and avenging his only losses in style.

But respect did not come easily.

Long derided by American critics, who thought him hard-hitting but cumbersome, Lewis finally earned their unqualified admiration by annihilating Mike Tyson on 8 June, 2002.

In front of a star-studded crowd in Memphis, he showed the ability, power and heart of a boxing great to dismantle one of the sport's most feared punchers in eight one-sided rounds.

LEWIS FACT FILE
Born: 02/09/1965
Turned pro: 27/06/1989
Davison: Heavyweight
Record: 41-2-1
Alias: The Lion
Height: 6ft 5in
Reach: 84in
Trainer: Emmanuel Steward
Promoter: Main Events

That victory will always define his career, but it was preceded by other memorable triumphs.

Lewis first pummelled his way to fame in 1988, when he used his massive frame to strike gold in Seoul.

He turned pro the following year and rose through the ranks by dethroning European champion Jean Chanet, British champion Gary Mason and Commonwealth title-holder Derek Williams.

Those achievements paled into insignificance when, in 1993, he became the first Briton for more than a century to hold a version of the world heavyweight title.

Lewis won that distinction in dubious manner when Riddick Bowe binned his WBC belt, but he defended it well against Tony Tucker and Frank Bruno.

Lennox Lewis
Lewis has avenged both his losses

Then disaster, in the form of a wonder punch from Oliver McCall, struck to rob him of his crown in London.

Like many champions before him, Lewis rebounded from the setback by outclassing the likes of Tommy Morrison and McCall in a rematch.

And then came two bouts with Evander Holyfield, the second of which landed the Briton the undisputed heavyweight crown.

If the win was slightly undermined by "Real Deal's" fading power, it still separated Lewis from the rest of his division.

And - after the blip of a second avenged defeat, this time to Hasim Rahman - it set the stage for a media-hyped showdown with perennial boxing bad-boy Tyson.

KEY FIGHTS
24/9/1994: Suffers first loss at the hands of McCall
13/11/1999: After a draw, wins rematch against Holyfield to win undisputed world title
8/6/2002: Beats Tyson in Memphis to settle an old score

Lewis' performance in Memphis was one of undoubted class that led to some respected commentators declaring him the best heavyweight ever.

"Lennox is beyond doubt the greatest heavyweight of all-time," said former champ Foreman.

"He is not second any more, he is there at the top of the tree."

Perhaps Lewis should have announced his retirement in Memphis because his controversial win against Vitali Klitschko in June 2003 confirmed he was a fighter on the slide.

However, when the dust settles and Lewis' greatness is assessed, the Klitschko fight should not cloud his legacy.

Even if history measures Lewis' achievements below those of Ali and Joe Louis, it will always have a place for the Canada-bred Briton who earned his respect the hard way.



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