2002-06-08 Mike Tyson – Lennox Lewis
Lennox Lewis vs. Hall of Famer Mike Tyson was a boxing match that took place on June 8, 2002, at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee, United States, between IBF, IBO and WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and former IBF, WBA and WBC heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. The fight was for Lewis’ Heavyweight championship titles. Lewis defeated Tyson by KO in the eighth round.
The referee for the fight was Eddie Cotton, making it his 20th World title bout. Alfred Buqwana of South Africa, Anek Hongtongkam of Thailand and Bob Logist of Belgium judged the contest, both the WBC and the Tennessee Athletic Commission wanted judges from different continents. Lewis weighed in at 249.25lb and Tyson at 234lb (second highest weight for Tyson).
The fight was promoted by Main Events and was a pay-per-view shown as a joint collaboration between HBO and Showtimein the United States and on Sky Box Office in the United Kingdom. It was the highest-grossing event in pay-per-view history, generating US$106.9 million from 1.95 million buys in the USA, until it was surpassed by De La Hoya vs. Mayweather in 2007. It remains, however, the highest-grossing heavyweight pay-per-view event in boxing history.
However, the ticket sales were slow because they were priced as high as US$2,400, but a crowd of 15,327 turned up to see the biggest sporting event ever in the city of Memphis, Tennessee.
The fight was originally scheduled for April 6, 2002 in Las Vegas. However, Las Vegas rejected the fight and several other states refused Tyson a license before Memphis finally bid US$12 million in order to host the fight.
Among the celebrities in attendance were Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Clint Eastwood, Ben Affleck, Hugh Hefner, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vince McMahon, The Undertaker, LL Cool J, Wesley Snipes, Donald Trump, Kevin Bacon, Chris Webber and fellow heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield.
Press conference brawl
On January 22, 2002, a brawl involving the two boxers and their entourages occurred at a press conference held in New York to publicise the bout.
Tyson went on stage at the Hudson Theatre and stared in the direction of where Lewis was to appear. As soon as Lewis appeared, Tyson quickly walked toward him and appeared to be about to assault Lewis. One of Lewis’ bodyguards attempted to block Tyson’s access to Lewis before Tyson threw a left hook in the bodyguard’s direction.
The two boxers rolled on the floor with personnel from both camps getting involved.
During the melee WBC president José Sulaimán claimed to be knocked out when he hit his head on the table. He later filed a US$56 million lawsuit against Lewis and Tyson for injuries caused in the scuffle. Sulaiman claims he was spat on and Tyson threatened to kill him, when he got up after being knocked out.
Tyson later admitted to biting Lewis’ leg and had to pay him US$335,000.
Following the brawl Tyson came to the edge of the podium, and issued a several minute-long profanity-laden tirade towards freelance journalist Mark Malinowski, who suggested that Tyson should be put in a straitjacket. Tyson punctuated his oration by vowing to introduce Malinowski to the concept of prison romance.
The brawl at the press conference for this fight was named The Ring magazine Event of the Year for 2002.
Fight Summary by Round
Round 1: The early moments of the fight provided arguably the most evenly fought display of back-and-forth action between Tyson and Lewis as they started by jabbing away. Just before 30 seconds had elapsed, Tyson leaned forward with a left-jab at Lewis; then lunged towards his midsection, landing a right-and-left combination of body blows before Lewis could manage to steer him backward with three effectively landed uppercuts of his own. As they subsequently traded body shots, Tyson ended the initial sequence by missing on a wild left hook. As the middle stages of the round came about, Lewis began to clinch and grab hold of Tyson as a strategy to fend off his repeated attempts to draw near for body attacks, keeping him at bay. But with just under a minute remaining in the round, Tyson connected with a great left hook to Lewis’ jaw, catching him off-guard. Lewis stumbled then recovered by once again clinching an approaching Tyson and pushing him back into the ropes while landing another jab. Mike Tyson came out on top of the inaugural round, but it would be the only one he’d go on to win.
Round 2: Both fighters began jabbing at one another, before Cotton went on to warn Lewis twice for holding. Lewis landed a number of effective punches on Tyson as he tried to approach, including several powerful uppercuts that kept Tyson staggering backwards.
Round 3: As the third round opened Lewis continued jabbing away. Later in the round Tyson went on to headbutt Lewis before connecting with a left hook; however, Lewis would manage to cut Tyson above his right eye later in the round.
Round 4: Again Tyson rushes out in the round’s beginning moments, but Lewis then proceeded to land two strong jabs before landing a big right. With 10 seconds left in the round Lewis lands a couple of punches on Tyson who goes down. Referee Eddie Cotton rules it a slip and deducts a point from Lewis for pushing Tyson down. Tyson’s face had then started to swell.
Round 5: Cotton stopped the fight and talks to Lewis again in the fifth round about pushing. As the round went on, a visibly weakened Tyson began throwing fewer and fewer punches while struggling mightily to land on most of his attempts.
Round 6: Lewis stayed in control by mostly connected on jabs. With just over a minute left in the round, Tyson was able to land a couple of shots which had created swelling just below Lewis’ left eye. But by the conclusion of the round Tyson had already sustained lacerations above both his eyes.
Round 7: In the seventh round, Lewis put Tyson off balance upon landing a crushing right hook. Lewis once more was overpowering in taking the round, with what was little resistance at that point; continuing on as he had shown without relent through most part of the fight, landing 31 punches in comparison to only 4 landed for Tyson.
Round 8: With :47 seconds left the eighth; Tyson is hit with a heavy right cross from Lewis, knocking him to the canvas and down for the second time in the round. As Tyson lies on his back, he is decisively counted out by the referee at the 2:25 mark, as he made no real effort to get back up and continue fighting. Lennox Lewis is declared the winner by KO.
A month later, Lewis vacated the IBF title deciding not to fight Chris Byrd, who was the mandatory challenger and shortly after vacated the WBA title for which the mandatory challenger was John Ruiz.
The fight was named Ring Magazine Knockout of the Year for 2002.
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