Lennox Lewis vs. Oliver McCall (2nd meeting)

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1997-02-07 : Lennox Lewis 251 lbs beat Oliver McCall 237 lbs by TKO at 0:55 in round 5 of 12


  • WBC heavyweight champion Mike Tyson knocked out Bruce Seldon on September 7, 1996 to win the WBA heavyweight title. In order to get the Seldon fight for Tyson, promoter Don King agreed to pay Lennox Lewis, the WBC mandatory contender, $4 million to step aside and also stipulate that Tyson would lose the belt if the promoter couldn't cut a deal for a Tyson-Lewis fight. King contended that HBO Sports boss Seth Abraham was the main reason that Tyson (a Showtime fighter) wasn't facing Lewis (an HBO fighter). Abraham stated that he was not a principal in the negotiations and had not been an obstacle in the process. Whatever the reason, the Tyson-Lewis fight didn't happen and the WBC title became vacant. Lewis then signed to fight Oliver McCall, the #2 contender, for the vacant title.
  • McCall was arrested in July 1996 on charges of possessing crack cocaine and marijuana. The following month, he entered a drug rehabilitation center.
  • McCall was arrested again in December 1996 after he threw a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby and spat on a police car. Following the incident, McCall went back into rehab.
  • On December 18, 1996, at a press conference to officially announce the Lewis-McCall match, McCall's promoter, Don King, said McCall was in treatment but would be ready for the fight with Lewis. Dino Duva, promoter of the fight, said, "I have no reason to doubt (King's) words."
  • Lewis was a 4-1 favorite.
  • Lewis was guaranteed $2 million, and Dino Duva said he could earn as much as $2.5 million. McCall's purse was $3,075,500.
  • Lewis controlled the first three rounds with stiff left jabs and occasional hard rights to the head. McCall refused to go to his corner after the third round and just walked around the ring. In the fourth round, all McCall did was cover up and walk around the ring. He threw two punches. When the round ended, referee Mills Lane took McCall by the arm and led him to his corner. McCall cried as Lane and his handlers talked to him, trying to figure out what was wrong. McCall told them, "I want to fight. I need to fight." McCall threw only one punch in the fifth before Lane stopped the fight 55 seconds into the round. After it was stopped, McCall, with the crowd of about 4,500 booing loudly, stalked to the dressing room, refusing to speak to anyone.
  • Lewis was credited with landing 104 of 263 punches, while McCall was credited with 26 of 75.
  • McCall's purse was withheld after the fight. He was later fined $250,000.
  • At a news conference the day after the fight. McCall tried to explain his actions. "My strategy was -- and I know it sounds kind of absurd -- was a kind of rope-a-dope," McCall said. He explained his crying by saying that he was trying to get himself into an emotional state. Dr. Leonora Petty, a psychiatrist, evaluated McCall for almost 90 minutes before the news conference and said, "I think his mental state is just fine." But McCall said she had also recommended that he see a psychiatrist, and he conceded he needed psychiatric help.
  • In April 1997, McCall was detained in a mental hospital after his wife took out an emergency custody order against him. He was evaluated by a mental health expert, who testified at a detention hearing that McCall was mentally ill and in need of hospitalization.

Post-Fight Quotes

  • Lennox Lewis: "At first, when he was walking away, I thought he was trying to trick me or something."
  • Mills Lane: "I think the young man really needs to talk to someone in the mental health field."
  • WBC president Jose Sulaiman: "I believe he had a nervous breakdown and maybe it was a reaction to the way he was living outside the ring."
  • George Benton, McCall's trainer: "Lewis was in there with a lunatic. McCall was talking incoherently, but he had been doing that all week. It started a long time ago, and I think it caught up with him."
  • Dino Duva: "Don King should have never made him available to fight. He was in no condition to mentally or physically fight. We tried six weeks ago to get Don to replace him."