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Collision course

High stakes point to Lewis-Tyson showdown

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Posted: Monday November 13, 2000 6:00 PM

  Lennox Lewis Lennox Lewis, left, used his height advantage effectively against David Tua. AP

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Lennox Lewis wants Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson says he wants Lennox Lewis.

Even in the convoluted world of heavyweight boxing, this is one fight that almost has to happen.

Why? Because too much money is at stake to do otherwise.

"Right now, the people want [me to fight] Tyson," Lewis said after disposing of David Tua. "Tell him I've been ready since the Holyfield fight."

Tyson has said he will be ready sometime next year for the one fight that can make both boxers the tens of millions of dollars they crave in a division that is otherwise lacking stars.

Of course, he's also said he is retiring, though few believe that yarn.

That was the reason Tyson's manager, Shelly Finkel, was at ringside Saturday night to watch Lewis put on a masterful performance in easily beating Tua in a lopsided 12-round decision.

And that was why Tyson dropped into one of Lewis' training sessions before the fight to check out the heavyweight champion.

Both fighters need each other more than ever, after Lewis took care of the one heavyweight many figured had a puncher's chance to end his reign as the IBF and WBC heavyweight champion.

Lewis and Tua drew a sellout crowd of more than 12,000 Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino not because Lewis is a terribly popular heavyweight champion. He isn't, as poor ticket sales in his native London proved in July for his fight with Francois Botha.

The public certainly doesn't want to pay to see Lewis fight the likes of Kirk Johnson or Larry Donald. Judging from Tyson's weak pay-per-view numbers against Andrew Golota, people are tiring of watching Tyson just for the sheer spectacle of it all.

But put the two together in a ring once and for all, and both can laugh all the way to the bank.

"Hopefully this fight will water his mouth a bit," Lewis said of Tyson. "I'm in it for the long run. I'm looking to build a legacy."

Lewis better hope that legacy is made inside the ring. It certainly won't be as a poet, though he tried to add a little Muhammad Ali-like excitement to the division with a challenge to Tyson after making an easy $8 million against Tua.

"If Tyson wants to come to test, I'll put him to rest. Lennox Lewis is the best," Lewis said.

Lewis certainly looked that way against Tua, who brought a left hook into the fight but not much else.

That was evident almost from the opening bell as the 6-foot-5 Lewis used his height and 15-inch reach advantage to frustrate Tua and keep him from landing his big punch. Lewis fought superbly with his left jab and an occasional right hand in a fight that didn't please fans who wanted to see a brawl but proved his technical superiority.

Compubox statistics showed Lewis landed almost three punches to every one landed by Tua. Of the 300 Lewis was credited with landing, 213 were jabs.

"At a certain point, he was just having fun out there," said Lewis' trainer, Emanuel Steward.

Indeed he was, showing that at age 35 Lewis is the class of today's heavyweights. In three title defenses this year, he stopped Michael Grant in the second round, did the same to Botha and picked apart Tua, the No. 1 contender in both organizations that Lewis heads.

"Like a fine wine, I'm getting better with time," Lewis said.


 
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