Francois Botha was the lumbering target in front of Lennox Lewis. Mike Tyson, though, was on his mind.
Three weeks after Tyson dared to try to ruin Lewis' homecoming, the heavyweight champion took out his frustrations Saturday night on Botha, stopping him in the second round in a performance that thrilled his countrymen.
"Tell Mike Tyson to either put up or shut up," Lewis said after successfully defending his WBC and IBF titles against a surprisingly inept Botha.
Lewis made his first fight in six years in his native England a short one as he stalked Botha from the opening bell and barely allowed the challenger to land an effective punch.
When the end came in the second round, it came with Tyson-like suddenness as Lewis landed a right-left-right combination that left Botha sprawled under the ropes in Lewis' corner.
"He's been talking about what he can eat," Lewis said, clearly upset about Tyson's child-eating comments after stopping Lou Savarese June 24 in Scotland.
Lewis then held up his right hand and said, "I'll show him what he can eat."
It was a lot sweeter outcome for Lewis than the last time he defended a title in London, when Oliver McCall stopped him in the second round for his only loss. This one also went only two rounds, but with much different results.
"It was very special to come back home and show the world how much I improved," Lewis said.
It was also special to the crowd that nearly filled the London Arena to cheer on the 34-year-old who has never been wildly acclaimed in the country of his birth despite his success in the ring.
The crowd roared as Lewis made a theatrical entrance between a pair of torches and kept roaring as Lewis thoroughly dominated Botha and then patiently stalked him to bring the fight to a quick end.
Lewis was a 15-1 favorite going into the fight against Botha, who was 1-1-1 in his last three fights, including a fifth-round stoppage by Tyson in January 1999.
Unlike that fight, though, when Botha outboxed Tyson for four rounds, he was never a threat to Lewis. He began pedaling backward almost from the opening bell and, when he did throw punches, they were mostly wild misses.
Lewis buckled Botha's legs with the first big right hand he landed in the first round, and patiently went after him before landing the combination that prompted referee Larry O'Connell to wave the fight to a close with Botha on his feet at 2:39 of the second round.
"It was a good shot, though I thought I could have continued," Botha said. "I never saw it coming."
O'Connell had been heavily criticized for judging Lewis' first fight with Evander Holyfield in New York City a draw. Lewis said before the fight that O'Connell was a better referee than he was a judge.
Botha looked at O'Connell in disbelief but offered little more protest after getting up at the count of six and having the refeee stop the fight.
"He was the better man tonight," Botha said.
It was the second straight second round stoppage for Lewis, who only three months earlier dispatched WBC No. 1 contender Michael Grant in the same round at Madison Square Garden.
"Not too many people can get away from my right hand," Lewis said.
Botha, who seemed dwarfed in the ring by the 6-foot-5 Lewis, was never really in the fight, throwing only a few wild shots from the outside that failed to land. He began to dance away from Lewis late in the second round, and it proved his undoing.
Lewis caught Botha in the corner and landed an off-balance right, followed by a left and then another right that caught the challenger flush on the chin.
Though Lewis was stripped the WBA version of the title for fighting Grant, he was still introduced as the undisputed champion before a crowd of about 10,000 frenzied fans at the London Arena.
It was similar to his performance April 29 against Michael Grant
except Botha, unlike Grant, preferred to spend most of his time going backward to try to stay away from Lewis' right hand.
"It was a good stoppage," Lewis said. "The referee asked him if he could continue, and he didn't say anything."
Botha, who was unranked by the IBF and No. 9 by the WBA, fell to 40-3-1 and is now 1-2-1 in his last four fights.
Lewis (37-1-1) earned some $6 million for the fight, in which he hand-picked Botha as an opponent for his homecoming. He will next fight David Tua, the IBF's No. 1 ranked contender, probably in November.
"David Tua has never seen a boxer like me," Lewis said. "But if anyone deserves a title shot, it's David Tua."
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