LEWIS ROBBED OF CLEAR DECISION (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, March 14, 1999) By Jim Reeves NEW YORK -- Evander Holyfield marched into venerable Madison Square Garden last night, singing along to one of his favorite gospel songs like an Old Testament prophet. Just like some 3,000 years ago, Moses didn't reach the promised land this time, either. "Glory on earth, power and strength to the Lord!" Holyfield sang. He could have used a little of that power and strength for himself. Lennox Lewis, cheered by more than 7,000 vocal Brits among the sellout crowd of 21,284, rightfully should have become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world with a unanimous decision over Holyfield. We forgot. This was a Don King production. Incredibly, two judges' cards were split and the third had the fighters even. Thus, the first major heavyweight championship at the Garden since Ali-Frazier 28 years ago ended in a shocking and disgraceful draw. The official judges' scoring was: Larry O'Conner of Britain, 115-115, Larry Christodoulou of South Africa favored Lewis 116-113, and Jean Williams of the United States had it 115-113 for Holyfield. The AP card favored Lewis 117- 111. "This is the problem with boxing," Lewis' trainer Steward said afterward. "Every time we try to have a great fight and move the sport forward, this kind of crap happens. [Lewis] won the fight. Lewis, who stormed out of the ring and slammed the door to his dressing room before allowing TV cameras in for a quick interview, said he didn't lose more than two rounds to Holyfield. "I hit him with my jab all night," Lewis said. "He never hurt me, not in the least. I can't believe this. "I should get an automatic rematch but I doubt he'll want to fight me again. He looked like an old man in the ring tonight. He was slow and missing a lot of punches." Holyfield almost didn't know what to say when he was interviewed by a skeptical TVKO analyst Larry Merchant in the ring after the fight while boos from the crowd almost drowned him out. "Things happen sometimes like that," a humble Holyfield said. "There's always a next time. In six months, if he wants to get it on again, we'll get it on." Ah yes, the rematch. More money. More hype. More King. "This is almost beyond a stench," Merchant said. "I'm ashamed as a boxing fan and as an American." OK, me too. "Why should be have a rematch if this kind of thing is going to happen?" a frustrated Steward asked. Yes, the fluttering Union Jacks and the soccer-manic Brits got under my skin but the biggest disappointment was that Holyfield, the warrior, didn't go out with a war cry, but with a whimper. Instead of Hagler-Hearns, we got Charlie Brown vs. Lucy. You've had tougher scraps in the backyard with your kid brother. Holyfield, noted as a counter-puncher, could never find a way to successfully stay inside Lewis' long, measuring jab. By the fight's final rounds, an arrogant Lewis was mugging for the crowd, dancing like Ali, dropping his gloves and daring Holyfield to hit him. As he held Holyfield locked up in a clinch as the last seconds ticked away in the 12th and final round, he waved his hand at the cheering Englishmen in the crowd. Holyfield, at times, looked as helpless as a baby. The man who twice dispatched Mike Tyson didn't bother to throw even half as many punches as his younger foe and, sadly, didn't seem to care. Give the hulking Lewis, who outweighed Holyfield by more than 30 pounds, credit. He listened to Steward, never gave up on his jab and carefully picked his spots to unload his big, jackhammer right hand. Holyfield started slow, pressed the fight a bit in the third that's when he predicted he'd knock Lewis out then settled back again as Lewis mauled him with the left jab. Neither fighter ever seemed to be in real trouble. It was almost as if Holyfield, after trying to sucker Lewis with the third-round prediction, was playing cat-and-mouse with the big man, hoping he'd wear down, luring him closer. But there was no web, no spider and no sting in Holyfield's game. Instead, Lewis gained confidence throughout the fight and showed it by dropping his gloves and daring Holyfield to hit him, much to the delight of the noisy British fans. This was not the fight that ringside celebrities like John F. Kennedy Jr., Jack Nicholson, Patrick Ewing, Wayne Gretzky and wife Janet Jones and Keith Richards expected. This was supposed to be a war. Instead, it turned into a long, disappointing dance. A draw? Now why do I suspect the detestable King somehow has his slimey fingerprints all over this? Track record, I suppose. When the cheese suddenly disappears, it's just natural to blame the biggest rat in the house.
SCORE ANOTHER BLUNDER FOR BOXING (Newark Star-Ledger, March 14, 1999) By Jerry Izenberg NEW YORK -- It had the atmosphere, it had the drama. The only thing lacking last night was the truth. So they called it a draw and allowed Evander Holyfield to escape with his twin title belts and Lennox Lewis was allowed to keep his IBF title as a kind of consolation prize. That's like a mugger who takes your money, your credit cards, your cash and says "Well, okay, I'm not such a bad guy. You can keep your library card." What a business. A guy gets on a plane, crosses the Atlantic Ocean and climbs into the ring to fight a guy who claims not only to hold twin championships going in but also clearly implies that the ancient prophets, the disciples and God will be in his corner. And with all of that, Lennox Lewis goes out and beats Evander Holyfield like a Salvation Army bass drum all night at Madison Square Garden. He controls the geography of the ring. He sets the pace. He picks Holyfield's pocket in the third round when Evander goes after the third-round knockout he had promised the world all month. He lands enough jabs to trigger a chorus of "The Bells of St. Mary's" inside Evander's skull. He lands a trio of right hands one an uppercut that are clearly the best punches of the fight. And when it's all over, there is no undisputed champion of the world. Stanley Christodoulou, a South African who is one of the better judges in the world, believes his own eyes and scores it 116-113 for Lewis. Larry O'Connell from Britain calls it a draw, giving Holyfield rounds 3,6,7,8,9,10 and 11, although in round seven, Lewis hit holyfield with an uppercut that rattled like an ad for National Dental Health Week. And Eugenia Williams of Atlantic City scored it 115-113 for Holyfield. As incredible as it was misguided. Call it myopia. Call it preordained reverse destiny. Or call it what we used to call it in the old neighborhood. Whatever words you use, they won't be strong enough. Emanuel Steward, Lewis' trainer, called it a disgrace and he understated it. "This is the sport I make my living in, and I'm ashamed of it," he said. And he was right. This could have been such a great night for this strange business that is alternately cruel and sad, courageous and gut-wrenching. This was the night the Garden had two real heavyweights fighting for three genuine heavyweight titles. It was the night that this city became a fight town again, with a sold-out Garden, enough let-me-be-seen celebrities to stock the entire Chinese Eighth Route Army. It was, to borrow the well-worn words of New Jersey's unofficial Poet Laureate, Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra, "deja vu all over again."... a night when taxicabs jockeying for drop-off positions turned Seventh Avenue into the kind of hair-trigger bump-mobile- course that Palisades Park could only dream of owning . . an evening when the steady "ca-ching of the cash registers at restaurants and 90-proof watering holes within walking distance of the Garden hammered out a veritable midtown symphony . . . a night when the calendar stood frozen in time and New York City became a heavyweight championship town once again. On such an evening, a Rip Van Winkle of the 1930s or '40s or '50s would never have missed a beat. The truth is that he wouldn't have missed anything. All right, the Nedick's hot dog-and-orange drink emporium in the foyer leading to Madison Square Garden was gone. But then so was the Garden to which it led between 49th and 50th on Eighth Avenue. Joe Louis and Ezzard Charles; Rocky Marciano and Joe Walcott; Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali don't box in this town any more. Hell, the truth is that until quite recently hardly anybody did. And gone with them were the days when you didn't even need a heavyweight championship fight to make this town hum. All you needed was a Friday night. Because Friday night belonged to boxing in the city. On a Friday night it didn't matter whether you had the heavyweight championship of the world or the world championship of Hell's Kitchen at stake. Neighborhoods could sell the joint out just as easily as champions for the ages. Last night, New York was a fight town once again. And then the judges ignored the sweat, the pain, the agonizing residue of morning road work in the rain and long days' journeys through the pain of "push yourself, push yourself, push yourself, and they broke Lennox Lewis' heart . . . not his pride and not his grasp of the reality he had just accomplished . . . they simply broke his heart. This is a guy who threw 613 punches to Evander's 385 . . . landed 348 to Evander's 130, landed 187 jabs out of 364 thrown as opposed to Evander's 52 out of 171. And they took it all away with a couple of pencil slashes. The bottom line on all of this was the magnificent fashion in which Lewis finished, landing the big rights at the end to put such a punctuation mark on this evening that even Evander Holyfield will carry the scars of the disservice done to Lennox Lewis deep within a psyche Evander says is committed to good works, honor and religion. It was a shame and a scandal. The bigger man landed the bigger punches. The bigger man threw a barrage of jabs. The bigger man defended his territorial imperative like a triple champion -- which he should have been at evening's end. The bigger man in size and real scorecards last night was Lennox Lewis. Then the little people took it away from him and left the building smelling not of what should have been an evening of everything good about this terrible business, but just plain smelling.
A WEED GROWS IN THE GARDEN (Long Beach Press-Telegram, March 15, 1999) By Doug Krikorian NEW YORK - Boxing's farcical nature reached dizzying new depths here Saturday night when Lennox Lewis easily beat Evander Holyfield across 12 one-sided rounds ue only to wind up with an undeserving draw. Lewis answered his legion of critics and Evander Holyfield, too with a boxing masterpiece that should have returned the heavyweight championship to Great Britain for the first time since ol' Bob Fitzsimmons won it 102 years ago. The 6-5, 246-pounder dominated Holyfield throughout the fight, as the computer punch stats had him landing 348 punches compared to only 130 for Holyfield in a match that lacked drama until the judges' scorecards were read by ring announcer Jimmy Lennon. The odor from this one smells so badly that I'm sure there once again will be a passionate call for governmental regulation of boxing with this scam of a fight serving as Exhibit A for those who seek to have it put under control. The 21,284 Madison Square Garden fans reacted with jeers and couldn't believe what they heard when Lennon said a judge named Jean Williams of New Jersey had Holyfield the winner at 115-113 and another person with myopia, Larry O'Conner of England, had it even at 115. The only person who put this fight in its proper perspective was the arbiter from South Africa, Stanley Christodolou, who had it 115-113 for Lewis. I had Lewis ahead on my scorecard by a 117-112 count, as I gave him nine rounds to three for Holyfield in what has to be the greatest American heist since the infamous Brink's robbery -- or at least since that notorious draw Pernell Whitaker wound up with a few years back against Julio Cesar Chavez in San Antonio. By the sheerest coincidence, Don King was the promoter of that hoax and was the promoter of Saturday's fraudulent rendering that isn't that surprising since a Holyfield loss would have eliminated King as a major player in the heavyweight division. You see, King still has the promotional rights to Holyfield, who retains both his WBA and IBF titles because of this scandalous outcome and would have been left with nothing had Lewis prevailed. King has no options on Lewis, who might have not have knocked Holyfield down, or even had him in serious trouble but landed enough bristling left jabs and straight right hands to deserve to have his arm raised in victory for a most workmanlike effort. "Everyone who saw the fight knows I won," said Lewis, and everyone did think he won except for perhaps the only two human beings in the world Jean Williams and Larry O'Conner who saw it otherwise. Indeed, Lennox Lewis is the undisputed world heavyweight champion at least he is to those who saw him torment Holyfield throughout a fight in which his superior size, weight and jab were simply too much for the overmatched Holyfield. I suspect there will be the inevitable rematch, but why? Who wants to see it? Holyfield never came close to fulfilling his prefight prophecy of a third-round knockout and was continually beaten to the punch by his taller, stronger and more active opponent. For a change, this time Goliath did slay David, except in the backroom politics, where Don King gets the kind of outcomes dictators do in those phony Third World country elections. In the past, it wasn't like this when a fighter of Holyfield's modest weight he came in at a mere 215 faced someone as large as Lewis. As I'm sure you all recall, Jack Dempsey gave away 57 pounds to Jess Willard when they met on July 4, 1919 in Toledo. All Dempsey did before stopping Willard in the third round was break his jaw and nose and knock out a few teeth. Joe Louis was undeterred giving away 52 pounds to Abe Simon in their first match in which he stopped Simon in 13 rounds. In their second meeting, Louis, still outweighed by 45 pounds, needed a mere six rounds. Buddy's brother Max would knock down the 263-pound clownish Primo Carnera 11 times on the way to an easy knockout, even though he tipped the scales at only 209. And Holyfield himself constantly has faced heavier men like Riddick Bowe and Buster Douglas, who had a 38-pound advantage on him when they met on Oct. 25, 1991. He lost two of three to Bowe, and took out Douglas in three rounds. But this time it was different. This time the big man was more agile, was quicker and far busier than the little man. All Lennox Lewis, who earned $10 million for being swindled, lost was the math count among the judges. The guy was never hurt, constantly kept Holyfield off balance with a jab that kept finding its mark, and should today be celebrating a most deserving victory. "This is why boxing stinks," said Emanuel Steward, Lewis' trainer. "This is why so many people think it's crooked. And they're right. It was crooked tonight." It certainly was. I've seen rotten decisions across the years in boxing, but never quite one this ridiculous. Holyfield did nothing to deserve a draw, much less earn a two-point edge on one judge's card. He was never in this fight, and only managed to strike Lewis with a couple of solid punches in the entire ghastly affair. He can still call himself champion, as a relieved Don King did afterward in the post-fight press conference without a hint of shame. But he's a counterfeit champion. Lennox Lewis is the heavyweight champion to me, no matter what a couple of corrupt judges want to rule.