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  Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Holding out for a hero
Lewis and Holyfield
Lennox Lewis defeated legend Evander Holyfield
Boxing is crying out for a hero. That much has been obvious for years. Sport Online's Sanjeev Shetty discusses whether Lennox Lewis is worthy of such a mantle.

The world heavyweight champion has announced his desire to clean up the sport and with a reputation for winning fair and square in the ring and living a clean life outside of it, he seems ideally placed for his mission.

But boxing, like any sport, needs their top stars to be more than just 'nice guys' - they need to excite. Even Lewis' most ardent supporters - and there are many - know he is destined to be remembered for being dominant but not inspirational.

There are few candidates on the horizon to replace Lewis as a future heavyweight king. One of his mandatory challengers, New Zealand's David Tua, makes an interesting story because of his Maori background but only time will tell whether he has what it takes to ascend to the throne.

Gullible

Shane Mosley
Shane Mosley: Boxing's next star?
The problem for every promoter now trying to market their star as the next big thing is that the public are no longer as gullible as they once were. After years of overhyped bouts turning into one round knockouts, controversial decisions and bizarre endings, the sport is in a slump.

It was always unlikely that the glory years of Ali through to Leonard and Hagler would be repeated. But a prime example of the sport's problems is the case of Oscar De La Hoya.

De La Hoya was sold to the boxing world as the 'Golden boy' after capturing gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. With a dazzling smile and movie star good looks, he was able to make large sums of money before winning a world title.

Yet despite beating world champions such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker, his reputation was limited beyond America. At the same stage of their careers, the likes of Leonard, Hagler, Duran and Hearns were household names.

Mosley

The latest name from outside the heavyweight class to raise eyebrows is Shane Mosley, a man who recently defeated De La Hoya.

A world champion at two weights, Mosley is an exciting mix of boxing skill and power. But having beaten De La Hoya in a fight which was not covered by a single British newspaper, it seems unlikely that his star will extend any further than his native America.

There are other skilled performers that the majority of the public remain unaware of - Roy Jones, Erik Morales, Felix Trinidad and Ricardo Lopez. But none of them have managed to transcend the line between skilled practitioner and worldwide star.

Which leads us to the last man who crossed that line - Mike Tyson.

Amazingly, Tyson was pitched to the world during the late 80s as the man to see boxing into the new millennium. With his lisp and encyclopaedic knowledge of boxing history, he did initially cut a charming and engaging figure in interviews.

Crude

Holyfield's ear
The effect of a Mike Tyson bite
But gradually the world was to find that the New York native could be rude, crude and dangerous in and out of the ring. Street brawls with former opponents, constant allegations of inappropriate conduct and ultimately a conviction for rape.

Although interest remains in Tyson's actions and antics, there is little doubt he is considered more like a travelling freak show, with every fight full of the wrong kind of controversy. Ear-biting, referee hitting and punching after the bell are the norm rather than the exception for Tyson whilst his post fight interviews are sometimes unprintable.

If Lewis were to meet the former champion in the next 12 months, the effect on the sport could be either very positive or negative. If the Englishman can inflict the kind of beating that Holyfield did so successfully in 1996, he would define his place in boxing history and effectively end Tyson's stint in the top flight.

But if Lewis is dragged into the kind of messy brawl that Tyson engaged in with Francois Botha at the start of 1999, it will only add fuel to the argument that there is no place for the American in a boxing ring and that the fight was little more than a cynical money making exercise.

See also:

07 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
27 Jun 00 | Lewis in London
11 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
11 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
11 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
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