Former world undisputed heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis has done a remarkable job of staying out of the spotlight since retiring from the ring on his own terms nine years ago with 41 wins in 44 professional bouts, including 32 knockouts and one draw.
Lewis, who won a gold medal for Canada in the super heavyweight division at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and the Seoul Olympics two years later before turning pro, credits Mike Tyson with helping him to keep a low profile.
Tyson was one of his knockout victims, falling in the eighth round in Memphis in June 2002 in the highest grossing pay-per-view professional fight for five years.
“Mike’s life was really an open book,” said Lewis, who was born in Britain. “He’s the reason that I vowed that I didn’t want my personal life to be public like him. I want to keep that aspect quiet.”
Now residing in Jamaica with his wife and four children, Lewis was presented with a Luminary Award at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Toronto fundraising gala last Saturday night.
“It’s quite an honour to be recognized by the UWI which is a mainstay in the Caribbean,” said Lewis, who is an avid chess player and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Sir Wilfrid Laurier University two years ago. “Education is huge for me and this event here tonight is going to help young people who do not have the financial resources. There are so many young minds out there who are going to shape the future and benefitting from a scholarship will help them achieve their goals.”
Lewis is currently back in Ontario helping British and Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion David Price with his preparations for a July 6 rematch with American Tony Thompson in Liverpool. Last February, Price suffered his first professional loss at the hands of Thompson, who knocked him out in the second round.
“I am teaching him all the things that are in my head,” said Lewis. “It’s up to him to make use of what he’s learning.”
Lewis said this is the start of his journey back into the sport as a trainer, manager and promoter.
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 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.
Coming to Canada at age 12, Lewis grew up in Kitchener, which is one of three cities that make up the municipality of Waterloo. Lewis’ 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 66-year-old academy under late coach, Arnie Boehm, who guided him to an imposing 75-7 amateur record with 58 knockouts.