Lewis gamble fails as American snatches world titles


Sunday, April 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


BRAKPAN, South Africa (AP) _ World heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis took one big gamble at the Carnival City Casino and lost everything.

Like gamblers still at the tables at dawn, he was convinced he couldn't lose, even at 5.30 in the morning.

Ignoring his trusty and effective left jab, Lewis went for the jackpot with big right handers and it just wouldn't happen for him.

Hasim Rahman planted a big right hand on his chin 28 seconds from the end of the fifth round and Lewis went home without his WBC and IBF titles with little chance of making up for his losses with a 100 million dollar showdown with Mike Tyson.

For the unheralded Rahman, Sunday morning's stunning victory, staged at breakfast time for the benefit of HBO's live coverage at 11.00 EDT in the United States, could be the start of something big.

For Lewis, who wants an immediate rematch, it could be the beginning of the end.

``There's no Mike Tyson if I don't get past Hasim Rahman, simple as that,'' Lewis admitted.

Rahman was supposed to be just one more notch on the champion's record in his 15th world title fight as he waited patiently for a fight with Tyson. But the American's big right hand has blown away any chance of that.

At age 35, there appear few options unless Lewis gets his titles back and he will have to be better prepared if he is to do that.

Although Lewis insisted he had no problems with the 5,200 foot (1,600 meter) altitude here on the outskirts of Johannesburg, he knew he had to get the fight over early having arrived just two weeks before the fight with little time to acclimate.

After four rounds of ponderous boxing that had neutrals in the 5,500 arena chanting ``Hasim, Hasim'', Lewis was blowing hard and, with his left jab virtually redundant, he was just waiting for the chance to unload his big right hand to finish the fight.

Rahman did it for him at 2:32 of the fifth and Lewis lay on his back for several seconds, unable to make the count.

``I can't believe that, I just can't believe it,'' a stunned Lewis said.

``I felt fine in there. I was going about my work nice and comfortably and there was no way Hasim Rahman could beat me.

``This is just what happens in heavyweight boxing. That's the situation when you get two big guys in there with right hands. He just threw a big right hand and caught me right on the chin.

``I felt he was getting weak as the fight went on,'' Lewis said. ``He was trying to land that big overhand right and he did. I definitely want the rematch. Hasim Rahman is the champ today. The second time around Hasim Rahman is going to go.''

Rahman, who flew home to Baltimore on Sunday night, might not be in any hurry to set up the rematch which is in their contracts and there will be weeks of negotiating with HBO who might prefer the more lucrative rematch to be somewhere like Las Vegas.

Right now, the 28-year-old father of three is happy to bask in the glory.

``I told you all I was confident,'' Rahman said. ``Not one time since the fight was made was I nervous. He came out and tried to dictate the pace but I wouldn't let him.

``I felt that the longer the fight goes I would have a chance. There can be no excuses from him,'' Rahman said.

``I kept my prayers going and did all my training. And I came up with one punch. One punch.

``Luck is being prepared when opportunity presents itself.''

Rahman admitted he was hampered by an eye injury which he suffered early in round five.

``There was blood dripping in my eye and it was blinding my left eye and I really couldn't see some of Lennox's punches,'' he said.

``But I'm a fighter I'm a fighter with one eye. I'm just going to keep throwing punches. I knew which area he was in generally so I just kept throwing punches.

``I felt I was handicapped and I just had to fight.''

While Rahman aims to prove he's not a one-hit wonder, Lewis, whose only previous loss was 6 1/2 years ago to Oliver McCall, must reflect on why he will never be considered one of heavyweight boxing's all time greats.

Despite his huge 6-foot-5 build and impressive jab, Lewis has always been held back by his reluctance to take risks and throw combinations. Despite his four-year reign as champion, the 1988 Olympic gold medalist has been criticized for fighting too much like an amateur instead of finishing the job in a professional way.