Holyfield-Lewis Rematch Ordered


Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, who fought to a controversial draw for the undisputed heavyweight championship, must fight a rematch within six months.

The presidents of the IBF, WBA and WBC ordered the action Sunday following a bout many thought Lewis had won.

"I am in disbelief," said Lewis after the 12-round match ended early Sunday in Madison Square Garden.

Bob Lee of the International Boxing Federation, Jose Sulaiman of the World Boxing Council and Gilberto Mendoza of the World Boxing Association met after the fight.

"It's a shame there was so much controversy attached to this important fight," IBF president Bob Lee said. "But we did what we thought was the most sensible thing by ordering a rematch in six months."

Holyfield holds the IBF and WBA titles. Lewis is WBC champion.

IBF judge Jean Williams of Atlantic City, N.J., voted 115-113 for Holyfield. WBA judge Stanley Christodoulou of South Africa had it 116-113 for Lewis. WBC judge Larry O'Connell of Britain called the fight even at 115-115.

The AP scored it for Lewis at 116-111.

"I don't care who the winner was. ... I scored by the blows that connected," said Williams, who thought Holyfield won even though he landed 228 fewer punches, according to CompuBox Inc.

Outraged by the decision was Emanuel Steward, Lewis' trainer who once trained Holyfield for two fights.

"It looks like the judges were rigged ... almost ," Steward said.

Gov. George Pataki wants the New York State Athletic Commission to look into the draw. He said his administration worked hard to bring boxing back to the Garden, "but it has to be done in a way that upholds the integrity of the game and people's confidence in the sport."

Promoter Don King and both fighters talked about a rematch even before it was ordered.

However, before a rematch can take place both sides must agree on television and promotional contracts. It's also possible one or both fighters could change their minds about a rematch. In addition, it's doubtful Lewis would accept half of what Holyfield makes in a second fight.

Holyfield was guaranteed $20 million for this fight and Lewis made $10 million.

"Six months ain't no problem with me," Holyfield, speaking of a rematch, said immediately after the fight.

There may not be a big public demand for a second bout. This fight lacked drama, especially the second half when Lewis got cautious, and 36-year-old Holyfield started showing his age.

The decision was roundly booed by many in the sellout crowd of 21,284.

"It's real simple - the people around the ring aren't the judges," Holyfield said.

With six seconds remaining in the fight, Lewis lifted his right arm in triumph, and his corner men rushed to congratulate him. Then the decision was announced.

"I feel that I am the undisputed heavyweight champion, Lewis said.

Instead, the 33-year-old Briton remains holding only one of the three titles.

"This was a situation where politics was involved," Lewis said. "When you've got a fight of this magnitude - I'm not saying Don King had anything to do with it, but this is one of his shows. I am in America."

It was not a typical boxing crowd, with some seats selling for $1,500. But the fans were up for the third round when Holyfield had said he would knock out Lewis. Holyfield had said his boast was not a prediction but the truth.

Lennox Lewis had Evander Holyfield on his heels all night.
Lennox Lewis had Evander Holyfield on his heels all night. (AP)

"Did I forget the third round," Holyfield said. "No, I was wrong. Tonight, I had problems. Next time I will not have problems. Riddick Bowe is the only other guy to do what (Lewis did)."

Bowe, the same size as the 6-foot-5, 246-pound Lewis, won two of three fights against Holyfield, who is 6-2 ½ and weighed 215 pounds Saturday night.

Lewis' best was the fifth in which he had Holyfield in real trouble. In one 45-second stretch, Lewis trapped Holyfield on the ropes and landed about 15 punches. In that round, Lewis was credited with landing 43 of 57 punches to 11 of 30 for Holyfield.

Yet, Williams, appointed by the IBF, scored that round for Holyfield.

Lewis landed 348 of 613 punches to 130 of 385 for Holyfield, and in each of six rounds, Holyfield landed fewer than 10 punches, according to CompuBox, Inc.

"I don't care who the winner was. ... I scored by the blows that connected," Williams said.

If O'Connell hadn't scored the final round for Lewis, Holyfield would have won a split decision. O'Connell, who had Lewis behind going to the last round, said he expected criticism from British fight fans.

"I know I'll get some stick, but it's my decision to call the fight as I see it," he said. "It's all part and parcel of the job and when I score each round, I never know what the overall score is going to be."

Christodoulou told the South African Press Association: "I think that many think it was a travesty of justice. ... I really believe Holyfield lost this fight. But they (the other judges) might have the same conviction about their decisions."

While Lewis outpunched Holyfield and landed 187 jabs, many of the jabs lacked power. His most effective weapon was a right hand lead that Holyfield had trouble avoiding.

"He looked like an old man in there," Lewis said. "He looked slow to me and he missed a lot of punches."

Lewis, however, became wary after the fifh round instead of applying the kind of pressure that could have shortened the fight.

"I didn't want to fall for any sucker things," Lewis said.

Still, Lewis seemed a clear winner.

"I hate to say it," Steward said. "This is a sport I make my living in. I am ashamed of it."

At ringside was light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr., considered by many the world's best pound-for-pound boxer.

"I feel ashamed of what happened," Jones said.

After the fifth round, the crowd became relatively quiet. Even the 7,000 British fans could only launch into an occasional song.

When the decision was announced there were loud boos. Then the crowd quickly dispersed as if it had watched nothing more than a bad play.

This was the fourth draw in the history of heavyweight title bouts. The last came in 1983 when Michael Dokes kept his WBA crown against Mike Weaver.

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