The two best heavyweights in the world need passports to see the Statue of Liberty.
They both talk with an accent, use strange currency, can’t vote in our elections and they live closer to the Eiffel Tower than to Madison Square Garden.
Lennox Lewis is from England and Vladimir Klitschko is from the Ukraine, now living in Germany. They are the two best heavyweights in the world, though Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Evander Holyfield head a short list of fighters who might argue the point. But in the eyes of most of the boxing world, it’s Lewis and Klitschko. They’re No. 1 and No. 2, top dog and second banana. And over here in the New World, that just doesn’t seem right.
The heavyweight champion of the world is supposed to be from Trenton, Memphis, Detroit or East St. Louis. He’s supposed to grow up on the poor side of town, fighting his way to and from school every day. He’s supposed to grow up in hard-times, sharing a bed with his two older brothers and going to sleep hungry most nights because they can’t afford another loaf of bread. When he’s still in junior high, he steals a bike, though a friendly cop takes him under his wing and, becoming a father figure, teaches the kid the difference between right and wrong and steers him toward the gym. It isn’t long before the kid finds out that the boxing ring is the only place he feels comfortable, and after a few amateur fights and a gold medal in the Olympics, he turns pro to help his poor mother put food on the table for his seven brothers and sisters. Four years and 28 fights later, he’s heavyweight champion of the world.
Eventually, he loses his title, getting beat by a tough kid from the poor side of Phillie who grew up sharing a bed with his older brother and going to sleep hungry most nights.
Now that’s the heavyweight champion I remember. What are these two foreign guys doing here, coming over and beating Mike Tyson, then Ray Mercer? Suddenly, the division has become boxing’s answer to the World Cup. The United States gets knocked out early, England and the Ukraine left to duke it out for all the marbles. We’re forced to sit down and patiently watch, realizing we’re not in the big leagues any more.
Klitschko, who took Ukrainian target practice on Mercer on Saturday night, looked about as good as a guy could look who beats up a 41-year-old war horse. His punches were fast and sharp and, according to the telling signs on Mercer’s face, they packed some pop. And now Klitschko – a classy guy – wants a shot at the WBC and IBF titles, which Lewis holds dear to his heart.
Lewis? It seems like he’s been around forever, though it’s only been 13 long years. He’s finally nearing that retirement fight, the one where he says good-bye before making a comeback two years later.
Still, he's coming off an easy win over Tyson and he might be too much for Klitschko right now, and that’s what Vladimir’s people are telling their fighter. Though Vladimir has had 40 fights (compared to 43 by Lewis), most have been against guys who had to take time off from their job flipping burgers in order to train. He need’s a Byrd and maybe a Holyfield on his resume.
The bottom line is, a Lewis – Klitschko fight might take a year or more to happen. They might have to renew their passports before they finally get in the same ring together, still leaving us a heavyweight champ with a visa.
In the meantime, we have to sit quietly and wait, hoping some hard-luck kid from the poor side of Cleveland shows up some day and brings us back our heavyweight title.