Lennox Lewis was not only the last man to really beat the man in the heavyweight division, he was also the last boxer to preside over the division without argument. For Tyson Fury to do the same, Lewis believes it will take more than just victory over Oleksandr Usyk on May 18. 

A contracted rematch with Usyk already looms in Fury’s future. So, too, does the rejuvenated Anthony Joshua.

Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in their 1999 rematch to achieve universal recognition as the best heavyweight on the planet then all but cleaned out his era – now regarded among the finest in the division’s history – when he whipped Mike Tyson three years later.

“I aimed to be the No. 1 guy in the division and sport,” Lewis said. “Everything I did was leading up to this point, I wanted to be Olympic champion, so I went back twice to the Olympics. I wanted to be British champion, I wanted to be European champion, I wanted to be world champion, and my last thing was undisputed champion. 

“Once I was undisputed champion, I could rest. I even waited for [Mike] Tyson so there will be no argument about who will be the best in this era. I didn’t want anyone to be sitting in the barbers having an argument saying, ‘Who was the best? Tyson, Holyfield or Lewis? I ended my career showing the whole world that I am the best of that era.”

The first bout with Holyfield ended in a controversial draw and Lewis doesn’t think one fight between Fury and Usyk will be enough, either.

When you get two great fighters and put them together, even in one fight you don’t get the full package, you need two full fights,” Lewis reckoned. “Unless one guy goes out there and knocks him out in the first two rounds… But if it is a fight that lasts the full 12 rounds, and we are seeing some great boxing and great fighting and great tactics being used then we would love to see it again. To see if the other guy wasn’t right, didn’t do the right thing or if there is a way for him to come back.”

Should Fury get through that, only Joshua remains. “He does need to fight him because it is a British thing,” Lewis said, perhaps reflecting on his 1993 victory over Frank Bruno at Cardiff Arms Park. “I’m sure the British fans want to see that matchup. Throughout history that has always been the plan. There’s always a big British fight between two enormous heavyweights. 

“I’m sure there are a lot of people saying, especially after [Joshua won the Francis] Ngannou fight. ‘What about Anthony’s right hand? It’s back!’ And he looked great, but, you know, the kind of boxer Ngannou is, is not the same boxer Fury is. When you look at the one-two [that finished Ngannou], is that gonna hit Tyson Fury? 

“Maybe not in the first couple of rounds, maybe in the last couple of rounds, you never know how the fight will go. You’ve got two different styles that are going to clash, and everybody is wondering what is going to happen and the only way to find out is if they fight.” 

Joshua splattered Ngannou in less than six minutes just five months after the Cameroonian lasted 30 with Fury, even dropping the “Gypsy King” along the way. Given those respective performances against the MMA star plenty would now tip ‘AJ’ to beat Fury. Furthermore, with two wins over Joshua already on his record, there is a growing belief that Usyk will get the better of the 35-year-old Fury.

But Lewis, who gained immediate revenge over Hasim Rahman after being shocked in their first 2001 encounter, warns against paying too much attention to Fury’s showing against the novice boxer in Ngannou. 

“Tyson Fury wasn’t ready, he didn’t take him as seriously as he should have,” Lewis explained. “If we were to have a rematch, you know we would have probably seen Tyson a lot better at what he’s doing. He would have been embarrassed by the first fight and think, ‘I didn’t look as good as I was supposed to’. I’ve been in fights when I wasn’t happy with my performance but if you give me that fight again, I will be a lot better. I would take it back to the gym and work on things to make sure that any time I step in the ring, I’m way better. Just like I did with [Hasim] Rahman.” 

The 58-year-old Lewis inferred that Fury’s showing against Ngannou might prove to be a blessing in disguise as he prepares for the challenge of Usyk. “I think it is a good time for him,” Lewis said. “Everyone can see his shape and see he’s taken it a lot more serious than the Ngannou fight. He should take it serious, because it is a big title. This is what he wanted as well, to be undisputed champion of this era.”

Lewis hasn’t always been convinced by the talents of the ‘Gypsy King’, however, which contrasted the opinion of Emanuel Steward, Lennox’s legendary trainer and a man who recognised Fury as a future world champion many years before he became one.

After being encouraged by Andy Lee, then a middleweight contender being trained by Steward, a 12-0 Fury spent time honing his craft in the Kronk Gym. The old master was immediately impressed even if Lewis “took a bit of convincing.” 

He admits: “Manny had that talent of spotting talent before everyone else, he had that knack and, as you can see, what he was saying came true. Everyone must have thought about it, and it was left out there, ‘Does Manny know the truth, does he know what he’s talking about?’ One hundred percent he does.”  


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