The next-to-last time we saw Lennox Lewis, three years ago in Seoul, he was a Canadian from Kitchener with a Romanian trainer, and he was fighting like a Russian, stick-straight and stiff. He knocked over everything in front of him to win the super-heavyweight Olympic gold medal. When we looked in on him again, several weeks ago at Caesars Tahoe in Nevada, Lewis was an Englishman from London with an American trainer, and he was imitating a guy out of a Philadelphia gym. He was still knocking over everything in front of him.
Lewis's victim that night, his 16th in a row as a pro, was Mike Weaver, the former WBA heavyweight champ, a grandfather and still fighting at 39, because, says his manager, Don Manuel, "he needs the money. I could get him a real job, but he doesn't want to work." It's apparent that after being knocked out by Lewis in the sixth round of their bout, Weaver should rethink his job options.
It is a yardstick of Lewis's progress that since stopping Riddick Bowe in less than two rounds in Seoul, he is fighting guys like Weaver and like Glenn McCrory, the former cruiserweight champ whom he outweighed by 10 pounds and knocked out on Sept. 30 in London. Worse, Weaver and McCrory were, in all probability, Lewis's toughest opponents since the Games. Lewis may be Great Britain's latest hope for a heavyweight champion, but as a professional he has been dining on tomato cans named Noel Quarless, Jorge Dascola and Jean Chanet, all of which has done him about as much good as a half hour's pounding on a heavy bag.
Now in his third year as a professional, the 6'5", 230-pound Lewis has fought less than 58 full rounds, and never more than eight in any outing. Trying to toughen up with such light work is like trying to sharpen a knife with a bar of soap.
The Lewis camp, as you might expect, claims its fighter's strange campaign has been marked by prudence.
"Patience," advises John Davenport, the ex-Marine from Plainfield, N.J., who trains the 26-year-old European and British champion.
"We are not going to rush Lennox's career," says John Hornewer, the heavyweight's American lawyer.
"Slowly does it," says Frank Maloney, his London-born manager.
Lewis, too, was born in London, but moved with his mother, who is Jamaican, to Canada when he was 12. "That's when I became a fighter," he says. "All the kids made fun of my accent, and I punched out the lot. After my third strapping with the belt, my teacher advised I take my aggressions out in sport."
As an amateur, Lewis fought more than 100 times, and in 1983 he won the gold medal in the super-heavyweight class at the World Junior Championships. He was Canada's best super-heavyweight from 1984 to 1988; he won the North American amateur title in 1987 and the silver medal in that division at the Pan Am Games. He crowned his amateur career with the beating of Bowe.