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  Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 01:42 GMT 02:42 UK
Manny's mission
Emmanuel Steward and Lennox Lewis
Emmanuel Steward works the pads with Lennox Lewis
BBC Sport Online's Sanjeev Shetty speaks to Lennox Lewis' trainer Emmanuel Steward ahead of the world heavyweight champion's fight against Francois Botha.

Emmanuel Steward is considered by many in boxing to be the premier trainer in the sport.

The creator of the Kronk Gym in Detroit, Steward has been involved with numerous world champions, including legends like Thomas Hearns, Evander Holyfield as well British fighters Naseem Hamed and Dennis Andries.

But Steward is currently more famous for helping Lennox Lewis rebound from a second round knockout by Oliver McCall and become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Ironically, it was Steward who had masterminded McCall's win.

Steward paid the favour back by helping Lewis achieve his goals against Holyfield.


Lennox has not solidified or earned a high spot of credibility in heavyweight history. I think in he next two years that will be his goal
Emmanuel Steward

With Lewis openly declaring that he is now less than two years away from retirement, many are wondering where Lewis will ultimately be placed in the heavyweight hall of fame. Steward is perhaps not as complimentary as one would expect.

"Lennox has not solidified or earned a high spot of credibility in heavyweight history. I think in he next two years that will be his goal," said Steward.

"I think the fact he is a two-time heavyweight champion, super-heavyweight gold medallist at the Olympics, has defeated everyone he's fought in the ring at one time or another - those would be impressive credentials.

"But for just having plain credibility and being a great champion, he has not attained that yet and that is what he should attain in the next 24 to 36 months if he so desires."

One fighter that Steward has not trained is Mike Tyson, but despite the clamouring for a Lewis-Tyson fight, the trainer believes the bout would have no real significance.

Wayside

"It would be great but if time goes on and Lennox continues to fight and be impressive I think the Tyson situation will gradually pass by the wayside because Mike Tyson is afraid of Lennox Lewis."

In fact, Steward believes that the rest of the heavyweight division is devoid of real challenges.

"Lennox Lewis will beat anyone out there. Just line them up and he should fight four times a year. All of the fighters should be sparring partners for him."

First is the challenge of Francois Botha at the London Arena on Saturday.

Steward and McCall
Steward with the man who beat Lewis - Oliver McCall
Although virtually no one in the boxing fraternity is giving the South African a chance, Steward is approaching the fight with caution.

"Lennox is too much of an all-round fighter in every area, provided that Botha does not loom up and land the big right hand punch that he is capable of. He is still a heavyweight, much like Oliver McCall, but better than McCall.," said the veteran trainer.

"At 230 lbs, you cannot underestimate a person with punching power and I think that Botha is a very focused, confident man. It is not a fight that we are comfortable about. Everyone else is comfortable about this fight apart from the Lennox Lewis camp.

Cagey

"The larger fighters are easier for Lennox to manoeuvre in to hit. When he has to punch down he has a problem.

"Botha is a very smart cagey fighter. He has been through a lot of fights, only lost two and if you look at him, he has never been scarred, knocked around or beat up so he knows what he's doing."


I think the Tyson situation will gradually pass by the wayside because Mike Tyson is afraid of Lennox Lewis
Emmanuel Steward
Steward has never been afraid to rock the boat when it comes to training Lewis.

During their first half a dozen fights together, the trainer often questioned whether his charge was fighting as aggressively as possible.

That line of thought is no longer prevalent.

"I'm very satisfied now. Outside of the Holyfield fights, if we throw those out, Lennox has become very aggressive - for instance the Michael Grant fight, the Andrew Golota fight, the Shannon Briggs fight.

"Against Holyfield, he fought a technical fight because he knew Holyfield was always trying to counter-punch. Lennox felt he could beat Holyfield without giving him the chance to counter-punch.

"Beyond that I have become very satisfied."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sport Online speaks to Emmanuel Steward
"Lennox is in excellent condition"
See also:

12 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
11 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
11 Jul 00 | Lewis in London
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