Who's the best fighter in the heavyweight division? I would say that mostly everyone throughout the boxing community would agree that it's Lennox Lewis. Other than a major slip against Hasim Rahman in April of 2001, Lewis has clearly been the best heavyweight since March of 1999 when he clearly beat Evander Holyfield and was shafted out of the decision. Some may argue that Lewis has been the top heavyweight even before 1999, but in my opinion it wasn't cemented until he beat Holyfield for the title, twice.
Enter Vitali Klitschko. Klitschko, fresh off of his second round knockout of Kirk Johnson must be considered the most worthy challenger to champ Lennox Lewis. Based off of Klitschko's strong showing against Lewis last June, and his destruction of Johnson, I don't see another heavyweight more deserving a shot at Lewis.
Although Klitschko doesn't own a piece of any title, I don't think it's a reach to say that he would probably be favored over IBF champ Chris Byrd, the Rahman-Ruiz winner, and either James Toney or Roy Jones. In my opinion, a rematch between Lewis and Klitschko would represent a fight between the two top heavyweights in the world at this time.
Lewis is the true champion and Klitschko has yet to be out manned or out fought in the ring. He has only two defeats on his record. One was to Byrd when his shoulder gave out and he couldn't continue, despite leading on all three official scorecards. Oh, Byrd just happens to be the current IBF champ. Klitschko's other defeat came against Lewis when he was stopped due to a horrific eye cut between the sixth and seventh rounds. Like in the Byrd fight, Klitschko was leading on all official scorecards.
The way I see it, Klitschko has fought the best heavyweight in the world, Lewis, on more than even terms. And he's also fought the best boxer in the division, Byrd, and was ahead of him when he had to retire on his stool due to a badly injured shoulder. I ask, what other heavyweight can say that? I'll answer that, none!
Without a doubt, Vitali Klitschko is the man most deserving a shot at the true world champion, should Lewis decide to fight one more time before officially retiring. And ya know what, I think the fight will happen, I really do.
Without a doubt Lewis-Klitschko II would be a huge money fight for both fighters, especially Lewis. The fan anticipation would be out of sight, and it represents the best of the division. I think George Foreman said it best when he said that Lewis would need counseling if he prevented this fight from happening.
One of the things that makes a Super-Fight is when a strong case can be made for either side. I always thought that was the thing that made the biggest and most anticipated fight in history, Frazier-Ali I so compelling. Having two big names is not enough to automatically qualify a fight as a super fight. A fight between Lewis and Roy Jones would feature two huge names, but can a case really be made for Jones coming out on top? Not as far as I'm concerned.
However, a Lewis-Klitschko rematch has all the ingredients to qualify as a Super-Fight. You have Lewis the established champ who is recognized worldwide. And you have Klitschko who has proven himself in the ring in his last two fights and is also gaining name recognition. The most compelling thing about a rematch between these two is that they have a track record with each other and some unfinished business. Face it, boxing fans and writers are split on what may have happened had Klitschko's eye not been so badly cut and their fight had continued.
A case can easily be made for both fighters in a proposed Lewis-Klitschko rematch. The case for Lewis is that he has proven over the last five years that he's the best heavyweight in the world, and must be afforded that until he is defeated in the ring. In his fight versus Klitschko, Lewis was clearly in the worst shape of his career and looked past Vitali. No doubt that Lewis would kill himself preparing for Klitschko this time, but the question is can Lewis summon what is needed to beat him at age 38. Also with Lewis is the rematch factor. Everyone knows Lewis has been brilliant in the rematches that he has fought when he is in proper condition.
The case for Klitschko is that he was fighting even with or maybe even beating Lewis in their last fight. No doubt that the Lewis fight made him a better fighter and more confident, something that cannot be overlooked. Another thing that Klitschko has in his favor is that he is younger than Lewis and seems to be at his peak. I also think that with Klitschko feeling that fate cheated him out of his last fight with Lewis, he will be even more motivated for a rematch?
For Lewis, a rematch with Klitschko would be right on par with his fights versus Holyfield and Tyson. At this stage of Lewis' career, he is only thinking about his legacy and money. Speaking of legacy, Mr. Lewis has quite an impressive one. I for one think he is one of the top ten greatest heavyweight champs since Joe Louis. I don't have him in the top five, but he is fourth on the all-time heavyweight list in number of title defenses. Only Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and Larry Holmes have defended sports greatest title more times than Lewis. There is much to be said for that.
Lennox Lewis has met all the challenges of his career. He has never avoided or ducked any fighter of his era that was a perceived threat to him. He has been terrific off of a defeat or a bad showing. I think he is too much of a champion to walk away and ignore the only true challenge that exist in boxing for him. In his last fight against Klitschko he was in deplorable condition, and didn't give a true account of himself. I don't believe Lewis has a morsel of fear or doubt regarding how he would fare against Vitali Klitschko in a rematch. In fact, I believe that he will fight Klitschko again and clear up all the confusion as to whether or not he was his stumbling block.
Look for Lewis to answer Klitschko's challenge and fight him again somewhere around the end of Spring or mid-Summer. No way Lewis walks away with the fight with Klitschko out there overshadowing his retirement announcement and party. I believe that he believes that he can summon greatness one more time and put the issue of Vitali Klitschko to rest once and for all! Can't wait to see it ?
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