Plenty of fights, if they are one of the following: great, controversial in nature in terms of result or simply fan-demanded, happen. Other times, however, they do not. Case in point: the terrific, bloody, action-packed, and it-left-a-fight-fan-craving-more heavyweight slugfest between Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko.

The Staples Centre, June 21, 2003.

Lewis’ swansong. Klitschko’s grand arrival. It was a thrilling fight between defending heavyweight king Lewis and soon-to-be new champ (but not on this night) Vitali. In fact, Klitschko was a former WBO belt-holder, yet his reign had ended in painful fashion, this as he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him to capitulate against Chris Byrd. With the stigma of being a quitter wearing down on his shoulders, Vitali was determined to prove he was anything but in the Lewis fight.

Lennox, 40-2-1(31), who was closing in on retirement and was coming off a year-old pounding of Mike Tyson, was to have faced Kirk Johnson, who fell out with illness. In stepped the eager-to-please (and prove) elder Klitschko brother, and, brother, what a fight we fans got!

Both men slugged it out; it was that simple. Both men tested each other’s chin, with both men showing some beard; the 32-1(31) Vitali especially surprised fans by the manner in which he ate a flush Lewis uppercut/bomb with nary a flinch. Lewis, hefty and not at all as motivated as his challenger, was soon looking out of gas. But Klitschko was bleeding, and badly, seemingly all over his face. It was a shot from Lewis that opened a nasty cut to Vitali’s eye in round three shifting the momentum of the fight.

Klitschko, half-blinded and a mess, nevertheless fought hard, hard, hard. Would Lennox collapse, or would Vitali’s face be ruined forever? It was X-rated stuff, and we fans lapped it up. Ahead on all cards after six, a furious Klitschko was “saved,” and the fight was over. Both heavyweights think about what might have happened in a rematch, even if they don’t say as much.

Instead of hooking up again, as seemed to be the plan, Lewis called it quits on a great career, while Vitali went on to do some big things in the sport, with him never losing another fight and ruling as WBC champion from 2004 to 2012 (with a four-year layoff in-between).

Lewis had one of the toughest fights of his career 21 years ago, while in defeat, Klitschko fought his defining fight. A return between the two would have/could have/should have happened, but it didn’t. As such, as great as he was, as special as he was, Lewis’ overall legacy has a slight taint to it in the opinion of some.

Agree or disagree? And how would a part-two have gone had Lennox and Vitali ran it back in, say, December of 2003, or March of 2004?

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