Lennox Lewis retires on top
Published: Friday, February 13, 2004
Updated: Monday, April 25, 2011 21:04
Lennox Lewis is going out the champion of the world, and he insists he won't be back.He retired Friday after a professional career of more than 14 years, the first active heavyweight champion to quit in nearly 50 years.
The 38-year-old boxer said that after months of deliberation he decided to leave the ring rather than defend his WBC title in a rematch against Vitali Klitschko.
"It's a special day in my life," Lewis told the Associated Press. "I'd like to announce that June 21, 2003, was my last fight as a professional boxer."
"It has been a great honor to be the standard bearer of boxing for the last decade," he added. "Let the next era begin."
Lewis leaves with a 41-1-2 record, and is the first reigning world heavyweight champion to quit since Rocky Marciano in 1956. The only other to do so was Gene Tunney, who retired in 1928.
"I've completed all my goals and now it's time for me say goodbye," Lewis told the Associated Press. "I definitely wanted to say goodbye at the top and now I am at the top."
Lewis paid tribute to his idol, Muhammad Ali, who retired with the WBA title in 1978 but came back to lose fights to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.
"I will definitely be the third boxer to retire as heavyweight champion, I promise you that," Lewis told the Associated Press, ruling out a comeback.
Lewis reportedly has plans to pursue his interest in hip-hop and rap music by promoting bands and producing records and concerts. He said he has accepted a position at a sports management agency.
Lewis, Britain's first world heavyweight champion in more than a century, fought just twice in the last 26 months. He knocked out former undisputed champion Mike Tyson in eight rounds in Memphis, Tenn., in June 2002.
"Mike Tyson was my ultimate fight," Lewis said. "That was the fight that kept me around for a long time. I didn't want to go out without facing him. I didn't want people to say that Mike Tyson was the best around."
He also defeated Klitschko in Los Angeles last June. Lewis was behind on points when the fight was stopped in the sixth round because Klitschko was cut.
The WBC mandated a rematch and ordered Lewis to agree to the fight by March 1 or risk being stripped of the title.
"I am sad to hear that Lennox Lewis has decided to retire, but I respect him for his decision," Klitschko told the Assocoated Press in a statement Friday. "Lennox was one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time and I am very proud and honored to say that I was able to fight him. I know I had him on the ropes and almost beat him, but my cuts stopped me.
"On a personal level, I am disappointed, like the millions of boxing fans, that there will not be a rematch between Lennox and myself. I wish him all the best, however, in whatever he decides to do in the future. Lennox was a credit to the sport for many, many years and his presence will be missed."
Lewis hadn't even told HBO what he planned to do. The television network paid him millions to fight and had been waiting for months for him to commit to a second Klitschko fight. Lewis said he made up his mind two weeks ago in New York.
"I was thinking about it for a long time. Should I go back in and have one more fight?" he said. "But I realized this is the drug of the sport. There is always one more fight and somebody to fight. I didn't want to get caught up in it, and I thought that this is the time when I should gracefully bow out.
"I respect the sport of boxing. Boxing has done so much for me and one of the reasons I am retiring is out of respect for the sport. It's time for the younger generation."
With Lewis retired, Klitschko is expected to meet No. 2 contender Corrie Sanders for the WBC title. Lewis said the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, Sanders and another British fighter, 2000 Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison, were the most likely to succeed him as WBC champion.
"The challenge is out to them to do what I've done over the past decade," Lewis told the Associated Press.
A heavyweight who stood 6-foot-5 but had the boxing skills of a smaller man, Lewis won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988 and went on to win the heavyweight title three times. Despite his impressive record, Lewis' performances tended to be plodding rather than inspiring.
His two knockout losses -- to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman -- were major upsets, but he went on to beat both in rematches. His one draw came against Holyfield in a fight most observers felt Lewis won. He later beat Holyfield on points to become undisputed world champion.
Lewis said he has accepted a position at a sports management agency.
Lewis became Britain's first major world heavyweight champion since the 1880s when Riddick Bowe relinquished the WBC crown in 1992, dumping the belt in a trash can. Lewis retained the title in the ring a year later by beating Tony Tucker and became undisputed champion in 1999 when he won a rematch with Holyfield.
Information courtesy of the Associated Press and ESPN