Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson
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Lennox Lewis 249 lbs beat Mike Tyson 234 lbs by KO at 2:25 in round 8 of 12
- Date: 2002-06-08
- Location: The Pyramid, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
- Judge: Alfred Buqwana
- Referee: Eddie Cotton
- Judge: Bob Logist
- Judge: Anek Hongtongkam
- Promoter: Main Events
- Ring Announcers: Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr.
- Pay-Per-View: HBO and Showtime (USA), Sky Box Office (UK)
- World Boxing Council Heavyweight Title (1st defense by Lewis)
- International Boxing Federation Heavyweight Title (1st defense by Lewis)
- The Ring Heavyweight Title (1st defense by Lewis)
- On-Site Poster
- Pay-Per-View Poster
- Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4, Photo 5, Photo 6, Photo 7
- Lewis was making his first defense of The Ring magazine title. In 2002, The Ring once again started to award championship belts. The magazine started awarding belts in 1922, when it was founded, but stopped when the magazine came under new ownership in 1989.
- On January 22, 2002, there was a press conference in New York City to officially announce the fight. Tyson was introduced first. He strode onstage and then stared in the direction of where Lewis was supposed to appear. When Lewis came onstage, Tyson quickly walked toward him. A Lewis bodyguard stepped between them and pushed Tyson back. Tyson quickly took a fighting stance and threw a roundhouse left at the bodyguard that missed. Lewis raised his fists and threw a punch as dozens of boxing officials and members of both camps swarmed onto the stage. With all the pushing and shoving, both fighters went to the floor. While they were on down, Tyson, who suffered a cut on his forehead, bit Lewis' leg. WBC president Jose Sulaiman was knocked unconscious in the melee when he hit his head on a table. On August 1, 2002, he filed a $56 million lawsuit against Lewis and Tyson.
- Promoters had planned to stage the fight in Las Vegas on April 6, 2002, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted 4-1 to deny Tyson a license on January 29. Several other states—including California, New York and Texas—also refused to give Tyson a license. Washington, D.C., and Detroit were in the running to host the fight, but Memphis landed the match with a promise of a $12.5 million site fee.
- Both fighters were guaranteed $17.5 million.
- The contracts addressed the possibility of the fight ending with a flagrant foul. The fighter committing such an infraction would forfeit $3 million of his purse to the other man. Tyson also was forced to agree to pay Lewis $335,000 for biting his leg during the brawl at the press conference announcing the fight. Payment was due June 9.
- Lewis was under contract with HBO and Tyson was with Showtime. For that reason, many thought the fight wouldn't take place. Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports, said the fight would be on HBO or it wouldn't happen, and Showtime senior vice president Jay Larkin said Tyson would fight on HBO "when pork chops grow on the palm trees of Tel Aviv." However, the two networks eventually agreed to work together. The pay-per-view commentators were HBO's Jim Lampley and Showtime's Bobby Czyz. Each network also had a team call the fight for a potential delayed broadcast. If Lewis won, HBO would televise the replay and pay Showtime $3 million. If Tyson won, Showtime would air the replay and pay HBO. Michael Buffer and Jimmy Lennon Jr. shared announcing duties. Buffer introduced Lewis, and Lennon introduced Tyson.
- Lewis was a 2-1 betting favorite.
- Before the fighters entered the ring, a dozen yellow-shirted security guards formed a barrier from corner to corner to keep them apart. The fighters received instructions in the dressing room from the referee and didn't meet at the center of the ring to touch gloves.
- Lewis vs. Tyson was the highest-grossing event in pay-per-view history, generating $106.9 million from 1.95 million buys in the USA. It was surpassed by Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007. It remains, however, the highest-grossing heavyweight pay-per-view event in boxing history.
- Thomas Hauser of SecondsOut.com reported:
- Initially, the promotion announced that all 19,185 tickets had been sold at prices ranging from $250 to $2,400. But soon, that pronouncement took on the look of a pyramid scam. Some folks on the inside got greedy, and it cost them. The Lewis camp engendered resentment among British fans by buying $4,000,000 worth of tickets and trying to resell them as part of expensive tour packages. Three thousand sales were expected. But the number wound up at four hundred, and suddenly modern-day Paul Reveres were shouting, "The British aren't coming! The British aren't coming!" Meanwhile, rumors began circulating that local promoters had held back several thousand tickets in the hope of scalping them. On May 29th, the sellout fantasy-bubble burst when 3,500 newly-released tickets went on sale to the public at the Pyramid. As the fight approached, ducats were selling at discount. By noon on June 8th, $1,400 seats were available on the streets of Memphis for $500, and $900 tickets could be had for $300. The final announced paid attendance was 15,327. Almost 4,000 seats were empty. The reported live gate was $17,500,000; still a record, but well below the previously trumpeted total of $23,000,000.
- Bill Pennington of the New York Times reported:
- It was a domination, as Lennox Lewis punished Mike Tyson tonight at The Pyramid, opening cuts over both eyes and bloodying Tyson's nose. This long-anticipated bout, years in the making, turned out to be a mismatch. As the eighth round drew to a close, Tyson -- who had been staggered by a series of uppercuts -- dropped to the canvas after a crushing roundhouse right hand to the chin. There were 35 seconds remaining in the round and Tyson made little attempt to rise before he was counted out by Referee Eddie Cotton. Tyson's right hand covered his face, and as the count reached 10, making Lewis's knockout official, Tyson put his right hand to his side to reveal a face smeared with his own blood. "This is my defining fight, the one the world wanted to see," said Lewis (40-2-1, 31 knockouts), who successfully defended his World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles. "This guy bit me; he was going to get some discipline. After the fight, he apologized to me and said I was a masterful boxer and admired and respected me. Mike at the age of 19 ruled the world, but like a fine wine, I came along later on and I'm the ruling man." Tyson (49-4-2, 43 knockouts) embraced Lewis after the fight and kissed Lewis's mother in the ring. "I am happy for him," Tyson said. "I am thankful for the chance. He knows I love him and I hope he gives me the chance to fight him one more time." Lewis, who was ahead by 69-64 on all the judges' cards, said a rematch was a possibility -- if the public demanded it. Lewis's control of the fight was so complete -- Tyson probably took more punishment in eight rounds than he did in the rest of his career combined -- the attraction a rematch would hold is questionable. Lewis, 36, took control in the third round, when he first opened a cut over Tyson's right eye. Tyson was cut over his left eye, and blood flowed from his nose and mouth in the succeeding rounds as Lewis repeatedly lined up Tyson for sharp left-handed jabs and stinging uppercuts and overhand rights. Tyson, 35, started fast, winning the first round largely with aggressiveness and a lively left hook, but he had just about stopped punching by the fourth round. Tyson looked tired and was breathing heavily after the second round, when he landed his last power shot. Lewis nearly knocked out Tyson in the seventh and stalked him for the knockout in the eighth. Midway through the final round, the fight was stopped for a standing-eight count on Tyson after a right-left uppercut combination by Lewis. The end came after Tyson briefly tried to fight back. But Tyson left himself open for the roundhouse right hand by Lewis that caught him cleanly on the side of the chin. Tyson fell onto his back and eventually needed help to rise. Even then, as he was helped to his corner, Tyson was out on his feet.
- Three months after defeating Tyson, Lewis relinquished the IBF title rather than fight mandatory contender Chris Byrd. "Prior to today, my team and I had already determined that there was no public interest in a Lennox Lewis-Chris Byrd bout," Lewis said in a statement released on September 5. "My decision was also based upon the fact that I believe, as I have said repeatedly, that Chris Byrd offers no competitive challenge to me." Lewis also accepted $1 million and a Range Rover from promoter Don King, who wanted to stage a fight between Byrd and Evander Holyfield for the vacant IBF title.
- The brawl at the press conference was named the 2002 Event of the Year by The Ring.
- Lewis' knockout of Tyson was named the 2002 Knockout of the Year by The Ring.
- "Write it in pencil: Tyson to fight Lewis June 8" by Tim Dahlberg, Gainesville Sun, March 26, 2002
- "Tyson boxed in by his allure" by Dan Rafael, USA Today, June 7, 2002
- "Lewis Deflects, Dominates and Destroys Tyson" by Bill Pennington, New York Times, June 9, 2002
- "WBC's Sulaiman sues Tyson for $56M over melee" Philly.com, August 3, 2002
- "Reflections on Lewis-Tyson" by Thomas Hauser, SecondsOut.com
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