Lennox Lewis was Britains last Heavyweight Champion boxer. Despite a reputedly high, undisclosed personal wealth, Lennox Lewis remains one of the most likeable sporting personalities of this century. Lennox Claudius Lewis was born in Stratford, London on 2 September 1965.
His names could not be more aptly chosen as Lennox is Gaelic and means ‘chieftain’ and Claudius was a Roman emperor who conquered Britain.
The younger of two children, the 6ft 5in champion was by no means born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His humble beginnings however did not mar his determination to make his mark in society.
It could be said that Lennox’s boxing career started early, as he was always involved in some scrap or other as a child. When asked though, he says that he was “never interested in it as a sport- not for a long time. For years all I wanted to be was a fireman”.
His continual use of his fists was to herald a significant change in his life, as both he and his mother Violet emigrated to Canada when he was twelve years old, having been separated for five years.
He compiled a successful Canadian amateur record that was to climax with the knockout of Riddick Bowe in the 1988 Seoul Olympics where he boxed for Team Canada.
Interestingly enough, Bowe, after capturing the heavyweight championship from Evander Holyfield in 1992, refused to fight Lennox again and as a result was stripped of the WBC title. It was then awarded to Lewis.
Lewis made his professional debut at The Royal Albert Hall, in England on June 27, 1989 and proceeded to seize 20 victories – 17 being by straight knockouts.
While focusing on his career as a boxer, Lewis decided to put something back into the community and in 1994/5 opened up The Lennox Lewis College in east London. He wanted to create opportunities for young black people, especially males, whose inherent talent often went unrecognised.
Unfortunately it has recently closed due to lack of support from the appropriate authorities. However, during its lifespan a number of young people benefited from being associated with it.
Exhibiting fierce loyalty, by retaining his original staff throughout, and not being lured away by the flamboyant Don King, heralds Lewis as a sporting figure worthy of being highly respected by all.
His illustrious career heightened, when in March 1999 he fought Evander Holyfield to gain the three international title belts. The fight was declared a draw, which was seen as a travesty by most of the boxing fraternity, including Lewis himself.
Despite his disappointment Lewis kept his dignity and proceeded to concentrate on reclaiming what everyone thought was rightfully his. On 13 November 1999 he defeated Holyfield.
Finally his quest to unify all three championship titles – the IBF, WBA and WBC – has been attained, making Lewis the second British born boxer in 100 years to hold all three belts.
In recognition, Lewis has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of North London for his services not only to sport but also the community in the education of disadvantaged young people. Regarded as the corporate world’s ‘most wanted’ endorser, he recently launched his own line in fashionwear.
Along with Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano, Lewis’s name is recognised the world over.
Lennox Retired from Boxing in 2004.