|02-06-2004, 12:02 PM||#1|
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Lennox announces retirement officialy...
Friday, February 6, 2004
ESPN.com news services
LONDON -- Lennox Lewis announced his retirement Friday, becoming the first active world heavyweight champion to quit in nearly 50 years.
The 38-year-old Lewis confirmed at a packed London news conference that he was leaving the sport after a 14-year career.
After months of deliberation, Lewis decided to retire rather than defend his World Boxing Council title in a rematch against Vitali Klitschko.
"It's a special day in my life," Lewis said. "I'd like to announce that June 21, 2003, was my last fight as a professional boxer."
Lewis leaves with a 41-1-2 record, and is the first reigning world heavyweight champion to quit since Rocky Marciano in 1956. The only other to do so was Gene Tunney, who retired in 1928.
Muhammad Ali retired with the WBA title in 1978, but came back to lose fights to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.
Lewis ruled out a comeback, saying, "I will definitely be the third boxer to retire as heavyweight champion, I promise you that."
Lewis fought just twice in the last 26 months. He knocked out former undisputed champion Mike Tyson in eight rounds in Memphis in June 2002, the defining fight of his career.
He also defeated Klitschko in Los Angeles last June. Lewis was behind on points when the fight was stopped in the sixth round because Klitschko was cut.
The WBC mandated a rematch and ordered Lewis to agree to the fight by March 1 or risk being stripped of the title.
"I am sad to hear that Lennox Lewis has decided to retire, but I respect him for his decision," Klitschko said in a statement Friday. "Lennox was one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time and I am very proud and honored to say that I was able to fight him. I know I had him on the ropes and almost beat him, but my cuts stopped me.
"On a personal level, I am disappointed, like the millions of boxing fans, that there will not be a rematch between Lennox and myself. I wish him all the best, however, in whatever he decides to do in the future. Lennox was a credit to the sport for many, many years and his presence will be missed."
Lewis hadn't even told HBO what he planned to do. The television network paid him millions to fight and had been waiting for months for him to commit one way or another to a second Klitschko fight.
"It has been a great honor to be the standard bearer of boxing for the last decade," Lewis said. "Let the next era begin."
Lewis leaves a legacy of big wins over Tyson and Evander Holyfield, but also a reputation for aloofness that never allowed him to connect with boxing fans outside of Britain and Canada, where he grew up.
A heavyweight who stood 6-foot-5 but had the boxing skills of a smaller man, Lewis won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in Seoul in 1988 and went on to win the heavyweight title three times.
With Lewis retired, Klitschko is expected to meet No. 2 contender Corrie Sanders for the WBC title.
Despite his impressive record, Lewis' performances tended to be plodding rather than inspiring.
His two knockout losses -- to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman -- were huge upsets, but he went on to beat both in rematches. His one draw came against Holyfield in a fight most observers felt Lewis won. He later beat Holyfield on points to become undisputed world champion.
Lewis reportedly has plans to pursue his interest in hip-hop and rap music by promoting bands and producing records and concerts.
Lewis said he has accepted a position at a sports management agency.
Lewis became Britain's first major world heavyweight champion since the 1880s when Riddick Bowe relinquished the WBC crown in 1992, dumping the belt in a trash can. Lewis retained the title in the ring a year later by beating Tony Tucker and became undisputed champion in 1999 when he won a rematch with Holyfield.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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