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Lewis to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer

After retiring from their sport following successful careers, most athletes look forward to being elected to their sport's Hall of Fame. Next Sunday Lennox Lewis, a former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, will lead the Class of 2009 into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) in Canastota, New York.

The IBFHO has a tradition to not only honour boxers, but to also pay tribute to other persons who have made substantial contributions to the sport.

Fourteen to be inducted

Fourteen persons will be inducted next week, among them noted HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant and publicist/promoter Bob Goodman, whose late father Murray was also inducted to the Hall. Goodman is a good friend of Jamaica and he and his father handled the publicity for the Sunshine Showdown, featuring George Foreman and Joe Frazier, in Jamaica in 1972.

Lewis has deep Jamaican roots as his parents, Violet Lewis and Carlton Brooks, were born here. He was born on September 2, 1965, in West Ham, London, England. In 1977 when he was 12 years old, his mother, who was by then a single parent, moved to Canada and his important adolescent years were spent in that country.

He attended Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Canada and played Canadian football, soccer, basketball and later did boxing. He eventually dropped the other sports, became an outstanding amateur boxer and won the world junior amateur title in 1983.

His brilliant record led to his selection to represent Canada in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, but he lost in the quarter-finals to American Tyrell Biggs, who eventually won the gold medal.

With a gold medal on his mind, he resisted efforts that were made for him to turn pro and he went to the next Olympic Games in 1988, in Seoul, South Korea. There was no stopping him on that occasion and he won the gold medal with a second-round stoppage of Riddick Bowe, who later became a world champion.

With his superb amateur credentials, he then moved to the professional ranks, making his debut on June 27, 1989, with a TKO victory over Al Malcolm in London. He won the European heavyweight title in 1990, became British heavyweight champion the following year and added the Commonwealth title in 1992 by defeating Derek Williams by way of a third-round TKO victory.

Dangerous opponent

His goal after this was the world heavyweight title, but to get there he had to first get past a dangerous opponent in the person of Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock, a Jamaican who lived in Canada. There was a lot of hoopla around the fight, but Lewis put the issue beyond doubt very quickly when he stopped Ruddock in two brutal rounds of boxing.

He was now the legitimate challenger to then champion Bowe, but Bowe refused to defend the title against him and gave up the belt. The World Boxing Council declared Lewis the champion on January 14, 1993. That was not how he wanted to become cham-pion but it happened, and his job now was to show that he was 'The Man'.

Tony Tucker, Frank Bruno and Phil Jackson were his first three victims, but he had a setback on September 24, 1994, with a shocking second-round tko loss to journeyman Oliver McCall.

He kept active despite this setback and prepared himself to take back the title at a later date. He did so in a bizarre fight on February 7, 1997, in which McCall broke down in tears in round five, refused to continue fighting and Lewis was champion once more.

There was no looking back after that until on April 22, 2001, he was knocked out by Hasim Rahman in Brakan, South Africa. Hurt and disappointed, he prepared well for the return fight, and a fourth round knockout gave him back his title seven months later, on November 17.

A long anticipated fight against Mike Tyson ended with Tyson being knocked out in eight rounds and he had his last fight, a sixth round TKO victory over Vitali Klitschko on June 21, 2003. He ended his boxing career with a 41-2-1 record and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Now a happily married family man, Lewis lives in Jamaica, has several business interests and keeps in touch with boxing as a commentator for HBO Sports.

Next Sunday, like former three-division champion Michael McCallum, who was inducted in 2003, he will wear Jamaica's colours in Canastota, no doubt with Reggae rhythms playing in the background and his mother Violet, family and friends from Jamaica, Canada and England singing his praises.