Former champions are always news in boxing. Whether Tommy Morrison returning from an HIV enforced absence on the back of suspiciously vague medical clearance, Evander Holyfield entirely just but completely impossible pursuit of the title aged 44 or Mike Tyson’s admittance of drug related problems and subsequent rehab request – champions remain news.
No surprise then that boxing’s last great champion of the blue ribbon heavyweight division, Lennox Lewis and unfounded story of his return made the news around the globe. The 41 year old, retired champion is arguably the greatest advert for boxing. Articulate, grounded, fulfilled, healthy and wealthy Lewis has done everything the sport asked of him and everything his talent and ambition demanded. And unlike contemporaries Morrison, Holyfield and Tyson he doesn’t crave the adulation, attention or pay-cheques his decade as the leading light in the division provided.
Lewis moved swiftly to distance himself from the suggestion he wanted to return to face Vitaly Klitschko, himself a former champion returning form short-lived retirement, in a bid to expunge the slightly unsatisfactory nature of his final performance and earn a career high purse. He allowed himself the titilation of summising he would beat everyone in the division, even now, but insisted his decision to retire was final and he felt content with his achievements and certainly didn’t need the money.
However, in a subsequent media statement on his willingness to train fallen contender Audley Harrison, he did reveal he had returned to a gym in recent times. Perhaps, I’m reading too much between the lines but suddenly a wisp of doubt has entered my mind and I just wondered whether a similar wisp of temptation had entered Lewis’?
I hope not. As many predicted, absense has made the heart grow fonder. Since his retirement and the failure of a notable successor, boxing fans have slowly begun to appreciate the talents of the languid champion. Like Larry Holmes before him, and in line with one of life’s great truism; “You don’t miss your water, ’til your well runs dry”. And the heavyweight division is a desert.
Lewis was a terrific champion and the type of ambassador for the sport urgently needed now.