Long before becoming internationally famous as the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Lennox Lewis was a high school football and basketball star in Kitchener, helping Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute capture the provincial hoops title in 1983.
After winning gold medals for Canada in the super heavyweight division at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the Seoul Olympics two years later, Lewis went on to become king of the heavyweight division, winning 41 of his 44 professional fights with 32 knockouts before hanging up the gloves seven years ago.
You can now add “Doctor” to his list of impressive titles.
The 46-year-old British-born, Canadian-raised Lewis, who now lives in the United States, will return to familiar territory later this month to be bestowed with an honorary doctor of laws degree by Wilfrid Laurier University which is celebrating its centenary.
Coming to Canada at age 12, Lewis grew up in Kitchener, which is one of three cities that make up the municipality of Waterloo, and his only two professional fights in Canada were held in his southern Ontario hometown. He recorded a fifth round technical knockout over Greg Gorrell in his sixth pro bout at Memorial Auditorium in 1989 and floored Mike Acey in the second round of his 13th contest a year later at Superstars Nite Club.
The city honoured the star athlete a few years ago, inducting him into the Waterloo County Hall of Fame. The street on which the Waterloo Regional Boxing Academy is located was also renamed Lennox Lewis Way.
Lewis learned the art of boxing at the 64-year-old academy under late coach Arnie Boehm who guided him to an imposing 75-7 amateur record with 58 knockouts.
The holder of the European, British and Commonwealth titles, Lewis won the World Boxing Council belt in 1993 and the undisputed world title six years later with a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden in New York. Eight months earlier, the two pugilists fought to a draw.
Lewis avenged his only two losses – to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman – by knockout and he, Holyfield and Muhammad Ali are the only three boxers to win the heavyweight crown three times.
A member of the Order of Canada and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), Lewis was named the 1999 British Broadcasting Corporation’s Sports Personality of the Year and inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility a year later.
Shortly after his retirement, the Harry Jerome Award winner established the Lennox Lewis Foundation that’s dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged children and their families in Canada, Jamaica, England and the United States.
The retired boxer and avid chess player lives with his wife – former Miss Jamaica USA and 2002 Miss Jamaica Universe runner-up, Violet Chang – and their three children in Miami Beach.
Lewis will be conferred with his doctorate a few hours after entrepreneur and philanthropist, Michael Lee-Chin, receives his chancellor’s robe at the university’s fall convocation ceremony on Friday, October 28.
Lee-Chin, who recently accepted a request to be a member of Haiti’s Presidential Advisory Council on Economic Growth, will deliver the morning convocation address for Business and Economics graduates while Lewis will receive his degree and address convocation in the afternoon.
The ceremonies take place at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.