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By Sports Reporter


Lennox Lewis to return to South Africa — to watch Kevin Lerena’s next fight

In 2001 Lewis lost his heavyweight title in sensational fashion to challenger Hasim Rahman at Carnival City.

Twenty-two years after his first visit, former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will return to South Africa to attend Kevin Lerena’s WBC interim title fight against Senad Gashi at Emperors Palace.

Lewis wants to be ringside to watch Lerena first hand, which promoter Rodney Berman promptly arranged.

The big Briton will arrive on November 23 for the fight, which takes place two days later.

Loss to Rahman

Lewis may have mixed emotions – South Africa was where he lost his undisputed championship to Hasim Rahman in a massive upset in 2001, but he also went on to meet his hero, former president Nelson Mandela.

The heavyweight landscape has changed massively since then, but Lewis’ legacy is assured. More than two decades since his reign, he is still the last man to have been undisputed heavyweight champion and he is widely considered among the top 10 heavyweights of all time.

It wasn’t just that he ultimately beat every fighter he ever faced, he carried himself with unusual grace and dignity outside the ring.

Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman
Lennox Lewis fails to beat the count in the fifth round, thus losing his heavyweight title to Hasim Rahman, during their fight in Carnival City, Johannesburg, in 2001. Picture: John Gichigi/ALLSPORT

Lewis went on to avenge the Rahman defeat by knockout and then closed out his career with a dominant victory over Mike Tyson and then a bloody six-round war against Vitali Klitschko.

The first fight against Rahman represented a high-water mark for SA boxing. The world’s eyes were on the country, celebrities flooded in for the action (Will Smith among them) and the sheer gravitas of the fight put it in a class of its own.

‘Bigger and more special’

“It was a crazy time, but very special,” recalled Berman. “The fight had to take place in the early hours of the morning to accommodate US television, and at every step of the way it felt far bigger and more special than anything we had ever done.

“I was concerned for Lennox and I warned him not to take Rahman lightly. He had been filming Oceans 11 with George Clooney and Julia Roberts … not the best preparation for a title defence.”

Three fights later, Lewis slipped into comfortable retirement. He dabbled in entertainment, started the Lennox Lewis Foundation (for disadvantaged children) and also married a former Miss Jamaica contestant.
He’s a popular figure on social media and even connects with his fans who recall him for his frightening power and impressive championship reign.

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