LAS VEGAS – Lennox Lewis didn’t hesitate to answer when he was asked to identify the best heavyweight in boxing.
“Deontay,” Lewis told a small group of reporters Thursday night at MGM Grand.
Ahead of Tyson Fury?
“Absolutely,” Lewis said. “Now I say that because of Fury’s last fight [against Otto Wallin]. So, that last fight kinda dropped him a couple points.”
Lewis wasn’t impressed with Fury’s performance versus Wallin, then an unbeaten, unknown Swedish southpaw who gave Fury a more difficult fight than anticipated two months ago. The undefeated Fury beat Wallin comfortably on all three scorecards, but Wallin opened a disgusting gash above Fury’s right eye with a punch in the third round and landed numerous flush punches on the lineal heavyweight champion.
The 54-year-old Lewis doesn’t expect Wilder to have such difficulty in his rematch with Luis Ortiz on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena (https://www.boxingscene.com/lennox-lewis-ortiz-easily-concussed-wilder-t-go-right-hand-crazy--144469).
Lewis will call their second fight from ringside as part of FOX Sports’ broadcast team. Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the Cuban-born Ortiz (31-1, 26 KOs, 2 NC) will headline a four-fight pay-per-view telecast set to start at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT ($74.95 in HD).
Lewis later praised Andy Ruiz Jr. on Thursday night. The former heavyweight champion isn’t ready, however, to rank Ruiz as boxing’s best heavyweight just yet.
“He’s there,” Lewis said. “He still has a lot to prove. He’s still gotta get past this second fight with [Anthony] Joshua. But, you know, if you’re asking me the number one and two, it’s Deontay and Fury.”
Wilder and Fury (29-0-1, 20 KOs), of Manchester, England, fought to a 12-round split draw nearly a year ago at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Wilder floored Fury twice – once in the ninth round and again in the 12th round – during that December 1 bout. Fury otherwise out-boxed Wilder, who has contractually committed to a rematch with Fury that is tentatively scheduled for February 22.
Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs), of Imperial, California, and Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs), of Watford, England, are set to take part in an immediate rematch December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
Lewis also was asked to compare this current crop of heavyweights to the era in which he, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson thrived.
“I mean, obviously this is a different era,” Lewis said. “You know, they do things a little different around here. And the reason why I say it like that is at one time, I was thinking none of these guys really wanna be undisputed. They’re really out for money. They’re really just out to see how much money they can earn. But now, it’s getting to a crunch where, OK, you know, there’s guys – I know Deontay wants to be undisputed. So, this is what he wants to go for. He went all the way over to England to challenge Joshua for it. And I’m like, ‘This is what you need to do if you’re serious about being the undisputed champion, you’ve got to go. You’ve got to go challenge these guys. You’ve gotta go in their neighborhood.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.