Wearing the black trunks, Iron Mike Tyson is one of the world’s most recognizable men. In white, Lennox Lewis is the emperor of the throne of the world heavyweight title. These two magnificent gladiators waged historic war to see who was superior – the good or the bad guy? A comprehensive collection of eyewitness accounts, research and interviews, “Heavyweight Armageddon” tells the fascinating tale of one of boxing’s most socially important super-fights. Two troubled but extraordinary boys from underprivileged backgrounds gravitated to the boxing ring for different reasons – both taking separate and spectacular journeys to the highest, most prestigious pinnacle in all of sport – the world heavyweight title. They meet once and for all in Memphis on June 8, 2002 with much more at stake than just multi-millions of dollars. People from all over the globe wanted to see who would prevail, the force of good or the spirit of evil? If you have an appetite for the dram! a and pageantry of boxing at it’s best, Heavyweight Armageddon! is an insightful read which will take you on an exciting journey with a cast of colorful characters – and of course two of boxing’s most renowned warriors.
Lucia Rijker: “The other great fight in history – Louis-Schmeling – was political. The fight of Lewis and Mike was almost light against darkness. Good against evil. And, to me, Mike needed the lesson to be humbled, he needed the lesson to realize his causes and how he lived his life were wrong. And Lennox was the one to show him. And, to me, the fight represented that good wins always over evil, eventually. Light wins over darkness. That gave me hope…that there is justice in life. Because I thought $50 million in the hands of a man that doesn’t show responsible causes, would be dangerous. If Mike Tyson would have won against Lennox, he could have been a very dangerous influence. And if the world is like that, like Mike Tyson, where would the world go? It would be the world’s destruction.”
Lennox Lewis: “It will be a battle of good versus evil. The way I look at it, the good guy has to win. And the good guy will win.”
Mike Tyson: “I’ve known Lennox since I was 16. I have mad respect for him. Everything I said was in proposition for promoting the fight. He knows I love him and his mother…This guy, there’s no way I could ever beat him. He’s just too big and too strong. He’s just a consummate fighter.”
Book Excerpt: Heavyweight Armageddon: The Tyson-Lewis Championship Battle
“Our main focus on the day before and during the fight is certain points, certain things,” said Courtney Shand. “We might see Lennox get up and do something. When he does it, you remind him of certain things. If he gets up and starts moving around, okay, remember when you do that? Do this. And as soon as you do that, do that. Positive reinforcement. If you push Tyson a certain way, we know what he’s going to do before he resets himself to throw a punch. So, capitalize on that. When Mike does things a certain way, expect this. Positive reinforcing. We don’t just go in and jump on him. As soon as Lennox shows us that fire, we’re on him. Keep drilling it in.”
“Again, it’s when he gets up and turns on the TV, he watches a certain section of the fight, okay, remember do this when you see this. What do you do if…? Sometimes we put questions on him. Okay, you saw what Buster did right there, okay what do you gotta do when that happens? When you get him off you, what do you have to do? Just keep his mind stimulated.”
“‘Cause he has to read it. He’s like a quarterback in a football game. He gets up there, he sees the defense lining up, just before he huts the ball and they shift – he’s got to read what Tyson is gonna do. Read from his body language. Read from the way he’s setting his feet. Because Tyson’s, like, a deliberate fighter.”
“We watch our fights too. Because we gotta analyze what the other guy is trying to analyze about us. See what things we’re doing that they might try to take advantage of. They’re smart and we think we’re smart. They’re trying to match wits.”
Lewis emerged from his vehicle inside the Pyramid looking perfectly relaxed. HBO cameramen were there to greet him. He was wearing a red sweatsuit, black ragamuffin hat and black shades. He was chewing gum. Tyson arrived just before Lewis in a giant Rolls Royce limo wearing a tight-fitting blue short-sleeved muscle shirt. He was looking cool too, except for the huge sweat stains on his shirt.
…Then Mike Tyson strode out of his dressing room, to the beat of rap music by DMX’s “What’s My Name?” Iron Mike had his gloves together in front of his heart, with the customary white towel covering his body. At first glance, he looked slightly apprehensive, even reluctant for the fight, in contrast to how he seemed at the weigh-in. His posture looked a bit slumpy and droopy. He banged his hands together as he neared the ring.
The entire crowd was mesmerized by the appearance of Tyson, one of the mightiest, most notorious and celebrated fighters the world had ever witnessed. But the fire was not burning at full intensity. To my eyes, he looked like he was more there because he had to be then because he wanted to be. There was a subdued element to his mood.
When Iron Mike stepped through the ropes, much of the crowd applauded him. Love him or hate him, this was a man who defied all odds and achieved unparalleled greatness and distinction in the brutal sport of boxing. Upon hearing the acclaim, Tyson looked around, slightly inquisitive, acknowledging the unexpected warm greeting. He raised his arms about half way – not all the way up – in a muted pose of triumph. He looked a little nervous, even uncomfortable. But it was still Mike Tyson. Iron Mike Tyson was in the ring.
There was no doubt about it, Lewis was the predator. There was a twelve-man wall of security dividing the ring, all attired in yellow shirts and black pants. Lewis’s eyes looked clear and clean and spirited. You could detect not even an iota of doubt in his disposition.
“Tyson came up to the barrier,” Lewis would say later. “Looking at me, looking at my body. I’m beating my stomach, Yeah, I’m ready.”
Lewis continued the pattern of controlling the range with jabs and right hands. Lewis’s graceful movements conjured the image of a great artist at work, poetically using his fists as tools to sculpt defeat onto this hulking shape of clay. Tyson’s only answers were one-punch-at-a-time attacks, which Lewis easily thwarted. The size and reach advantages were just too much for Tyson
Lewis drew first blood – a small cut over Tyson’s right eye. Tyson looked to be in pain as Shields implored him, “You got to get closer to this man.” But no man in 15 years had ever really done so. Those Lewis jabs and rights were a mighty arsenal to penetrate. Tyson grimaced as his cutman, Ira Trocki, tended to the wound. Steward told Lewis, ‘He can’t deal with your uppercut. Let’s get it together. The man is tired.”
“I remember one summer about six, seven years ago, Tyson rolled up. He used to rise his Harley around Brooklyn. And he was riding around. And some of me and my people were outside, on Crown Street. And a couple of me and my boys was slap boxing, just playin’ around. Tyson rolled up. By himself. And everybody looked. They were wondering if that was Tyson or not. So, he just roll up and he say, Yo, I’ll give whoever knocks the other one out, I’ll give you one hundred dollars right now. So, that just got people hyped. Word! Word! So they just start rumblin’. Next thing you know my boy just catches him with two lefts and a right – boop, boop, boop – and he just dropped him. Boop. Tyson said, Good shit. Gabe him a hundred dollars, got on his bike and left. I said, Oooohh, shit. I say, Yo, that’s too much power for one man to have. It was like straight out of a movie scene. Because we just chillin’ He just comes out of nowhere.”
In the fight did Tyson do anything you did not expect? “I’m glad he fought fair,” Lewis said. “Because I was definitely ready for anything. Even after (the fight) I had respect for him. I was hitting him with some shots. It was the first fight where my hands were a little sore. I said it was because of the size of his neck. He’s like a shock absorber. He’d take it, shake it off and come back at you. Like that Rhino Man in Spiderman.”
At the Cory Spinks-Ricardo Mayorga fight in Atlantic City in December 2003 you and Tyson were at ringside watching the fights in the same area, with him one seat in front of you. I was wondering if you both talked at all that night?
Lennox Lewis: “Yeah. I don’t know. For me, there’s never any bad blood – unless you do something to me. When we sat there, everyone was tense, looking at us, everybody was tense like that. I could tell. I said, What’s goin’ on Mike? He looks back at me, [says in a high-strung voice] What’s goin’ on with YOU? And that was it [laughs].”
“Heavyweight Armageddon: The Tyson-Lewis Championship Battle” is available at www.amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and borders.com.
Scoop has written boxing for The Ring, New York Post, New York Daily News, World Boxing Japan, Boxing World South Africa, The Fist (Australia), Boxing Digest, BoxingInsider.com, Boxing Update newsletter, Boxing News (U.K), CBS Sportsline.com, MOVES Magazine, Fightnews.com, Boxingtalk.com and of course NYSportsDay.com.