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Lewis Takes a Bite Out of Tyson Myth

Boxing: Champion controls fight, then stops it with knockout in eighth. Tyson goes without incident.

June 09, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEMPHIS, Tenn.--He lay there on his back on the canvas of the Pyramid Saturday night, his right glove over his face, briefly hiding the swollen eyes, the deep cuts in the eyebrows, the streams of blood, the battered nose, hiding them from the crowd of 15,327 and a worldwide audience of more than a million.

But nothing could hide the fact that beneath the bravado, behind the bully, at the core of the arrogance and profanity, Mike Tyson, at age 35, was a shot fighter.

At the end, after Lennox Lewis dominated and ultimately knocked out Tyson to defend his International Boxing Federation/World Boxing Council heavyweight title, Tyson, who built up an image as a monster of mayhem in the ring, was a pitiful figure.

Lewis was in control from the second round on, knocked Tyson down in the eighth round and then finished Tyson off with a head-rattling roundhouse right hand that finished the fight at the 2:25 mark of that round.

"This is my defining fight the whole world wanted to see," Lewis said. "I wanted to complete my legacy as the best fighter on the planet. I showed boxing who is the best in the world."

In defeat, Tyson may have gained the respect he could never get as a two-time heavyweight champion. The man who bit both of Evander Holyfield's ears in their 1997 title match, who bit Lewis on the upper left thigh at a January news conference, who tried to break Francois Botha's arm in a 1999 fight, was humble and gracious in defeat.

Tyson had nothing left after winning the first round with his aggressiveness and solid left hands. Although the 6-foot-5 Lewis enjoyed a height advantage of 5 1/2 inches, a weight advantage of 15 pounds and a reach advantage of six inches, he was giving Tyson the edge, a dangerous edge, by allowing him inside.

But after some quick and furious instructions from trainer Emanuel Steward in the corner, Lewis came out in the second round a different man.

Judges Alfred Bukwana, Bob Logist and Anak Hongtonkan each gave Tyson the first round, but none of the others.

Lewis used his size advantage to keep Tyson at bay and smacked him with jab after jab after jab.

The only problems Lewis had in the ring came not from Tyson, but from the third man in the ring, referee Eddie Cotton.

After Lewis appeared to knock Tyson down in the fourth round, Cotton ruled instead that Lewis had pushed Tyson down, penalizing him a point. That cost Lewis two points. Instead of getting a 10-8 round, Lewis had a settle for a 9-9 round after the deduction.

No problem. Lewis calmly went to work in the fifth round, reducing Tyson's face to a bloody pulp.

"Emanuel told me to take him out earlier," Lewis said. "He was pleading with me. But I was biding my time."

A cut over Tyson's right eye opened up in the third round. Lewis' glove split Tyson's left eye in the fifth. His nose bled on and off. And as the rounds proceeded, the swelling gradually reduced Tyson's eyes to slits.

It seemed time for Tyson to find a way out, an illegal way if necessary. Many waited for the inevitable bite, or low blow, or rabbit punch, or late hit.

But it never came

"This was the guy that bit me and I decided he was going to get some discipline," said Lewis, who improved to 40-2-1 with 31 knockouts. "I wasn't going to give him a reason to bite. I felt he behaved himself because everyone was watching."

That wasn't it at all, according to Tyson, who dropped to 49-4 with two no-contests and 43 knockouts.

"He knows me," Tyson said. "I love him. He knows I respect him. I love him too much to do anything to disrespect him."

Lewis put Tyson down for the first time in the eighth round with a vicious left uppercut, followed by a short right hand. Cotton stepped in to count although Tyson was still in a crouch.

When the fight resumed, Lewis came back with the roundhouse right that sent him tumbling to the canvas. Tyson weakly made it to his feet, slumped against the ropes as the count ran out.

But afterward, Tyson didn't rant or rave or storm from the ring. He stayed around to congratulate Lewis, kiss Lewis' mother, Violet, and ask for a rematch.

"Thank you for the chance," Tyson told Lewis. "Nobody wanted to give me a chance. I am thankful you gave me a chance."

Then Tyson told reporters, "I am happy for him and I hope he gives me a fight one more time."

It's a fight few would want to see. Lewis connected on 59% of his punches to 23% for Tyson. In jabs thrown, the difference was even more pronounced, 53% for Lewis and just 15% for Tyson.

*

In the semi-main event, International Boxing Federation junior featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao (34-2-1, 25 knockouts) of the Philippines defended his title by stopping Jorge Eliecer Julio (44-4, 32) of Colombia at 1:09 of the second round. And in a non-title match, Joel Casamayor (27-1, 17)) stopped Juan Jose Arias (33-3-1, 27) at 1:44 of the eighth round.

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