Lewis vs. Tyson—15 Years Ago Already?

By Marc Livitz on June 9, 2017
Lewis vs. Tyson—15 Years Ago Already?
Many were happy to see the destruction of someone who had pissed off so many people.

Fifteen years ago, an individual who perhaps belonged in an institution of sorts ended up flat on his back inside a ring in Memphis, Tennessee…

“You tell me it’s the institution. Well, you know, you better free your mind instead,” sang the legendary John Lennon nearly fifty years ago. The classic track, “Revolution” had a very distinct guitar tune for it and it’s said that to achieve the rough effect sought for the lyrics, Lennon laid on his back during the recording session. Fifteen years ago Thursday, an individual who perhaps belonged in an institution of sorts ended up flat on his back inside a ring in Memphis, Tennessee. We as boxing fans were made to painstakingly wait for half a decade or more until Floyd Mayweather finally met up with Manny Pacquiao. Other than the letdown felt by some due to the site chosen for the September clash between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, we were at least able to exhale a bit alongside the comfort in knowing the wait was over.

For those us old enough to remember, though it’s not so long ago, the heavyweight division of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s had its fair share of the waiting game. Most notable was perhaps the showdown between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, which was several years in the chat room until it finally materialized in late 1996. Mike was set to take on “Real Deal” Holyfield first in the summer of 1990, but those plans went south after he was upset by 42-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas. This writer actually had a t-shirt from what was supposed to be their second try at the hotly awaited clash at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in the fall of 1991. Alas, Tyson’s indiscretions (which led to time in prison) as well as an injury sustained in training derailed that one until November of 1996 and it turned out to be a night for the ages. Holyfield looked as if he’d pulled some magic elixir from the shaman’s bag. He pushed back and gave “Iron” Mike a spoonful of concrete as well as reality until he won by knockout in the eleventh round. We all remember their rematch and so there’s no need to rehash.

Mike was back after more than a yearlong hiatus and en route to his eventual 2002 showdown with Lennox Lewis, he didn’t exactly fight the “who’s who” of the heavyweight division. After he savagely knocked out Lou Savarese in the summer of 2000, his post-fight interview with Jim Gray wasn’t one to remember, yet it was one we wouldn’t soon forget. He gave a few religiously inspired shoutouts, proclaimed his love for his own children and openly admitted that he hadn’t trained much for the bout which was over in less than a minute. This was, of course, the famous “I want your heart and I want to eat your children” sound byte which still resonates to this day for some reason. The contest was originally scheduled for April 2002 in Las Vegas, but their January press conference didn’t go as planned. Mike went haywire and after trying to start the fight in the New York City ballroom which hosted the presser, he went on his infamous diatribe against members of the press in attendance, most notably one who claimed that Tyson belonged in a straightjacket.

It was as if he was doing everything he possibly could to ruin his career even more, not only with the aforementioned actions but also his disgusting, chauvinistic comments made to a female reporter as well. All of this is available on the internet, so it won’t be justified any further in this article. Lennox Lewis was made to wait because Las Vegas gave him and Mike the boot, as did California, New York and Texas. Finally, Memphis won the bidding war which guaranteed Lewis versus Tyson “is on,” as the fight poster boasted. The Pyramid arena in the city made famous by Elvis Presley, great music and unforgettable barbecue would be the host. A line of security guards in yellow shirts stood diagonally across the ring during the pre-fight introductions to keep the fighters away from each other until the opening bell. Who are we kidding? It was to keep the then maniacally unhinged Tyson away from his English opponent, who at the time was the best heavyweight in the world.

What did we ultimately get in the bout that is still the highest grossing contest in heavyweight boxing history? A one-sided rout. Although Mike tried his best to come out firing in the opening round, he was soon shut down by the calm, collected yet brutal Lewis. He opened cuts over both of Mike’s eyes and had him bleeding from the nose and mouth. Some were shocked, yet many more were happy to see the utter destruction of someone who had managed to piss off so many people over the years.

The fight held the distinction of being the highest grossing pay-per-view bout in history until it was surpassed five years later when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. took on Oscar De La Hoya. Of course, that record was in place for eight years until 2015 when “that fight” finally took place. In any case, fifteen years have absolutely flown by and the night of June 8, 2002 was certainly one to remember. Mike fought on a few more times until 2005 when he retired with a record of (50-6, 44 KO’s). There was talk, albeit brief of rematch but it wasn’t in any way necessary.

Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KO’s) was able to avenge the two losses on his boxing ledger (Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, respectively) well before he fought Mike. He fought just once more the following year, in 2003. That June, his stoppage win over Vitali Klitschko really had truly begged for a rematch. That one was necessary. It never happened.

Follow Marc Livitz on Twitter at https://twitter.com/fightawrita

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Tyson Vs Lewis - Legendary Nights

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles


This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Alt Knight 05:16am, 06/11/2017

    Irish..There are a few white guys in the NFL that are running 4.3-4.4 40’s. And don’t forget that all those white guys on the Pats offensive squad is “racist.” haha.

  2. Alt Knight 04:44am, 06/11/2017

    Irish…Dafne is the greatest female athlete in the world, while Tyson is just a huge, tough gypsy who can fight/box. Ever seen Tyson perform his roadwork, sprints or conditioning exercises? Whoa, he exercises like a 50 year old office worker. Hard to believe this guy is a world class athlete. Dafne would have been perfect for the role as Wonder Woman that is currently playing in theaters. Yeah, she’s not a brunette, but Wonder Woman wasn’t an Israeli either. I think her perfect male counterpoint would have been the 70’s shot putter, Brian Oldfield. At 6’5” and 275-280lbs of solid muscle, this guy would challenge world class Olympian female sprinters in sprints and beat them. He even did fairly well against the much, much, lighter Lynn Swann in The Superstars 100 meter sprint, taking second place overall. The guy would smoke cigarettes between throws, he could dunk a 16lb shot and was even thinking about taking up boxing in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Can’t believe no one in the NFL ever tried to sign this guy.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:36pm, 06/10/2017

    Alt Knight-Dafne Schippers won the Diamond League 100 meters in Rome this week! Think about that one for a minute! Where the fuk is her male counterpart? I’ll tell you where…. it’s someone like Tyson Fury who’s bound and determined to piss it all away!

  4. Alt Knight 11:05am, 06/10/2017

    Irish… The injury that Mantle sustained to his knee tripping over an exposed drain pipe in the 1951 World Series didn’t help as well. DiMaggio called for the ball and Mantle was getting out of his way. From what I read about Joltin’ Joe, he was kind of cold to Mantle and might have been a tad jealous of the new arrival. No doubt that Ted Williams would have put up some staggering numbers as well and could have made a realistic run for the 700 club, definitely he breaks Willie Mays’ total of dingers. Mantle wasn’t too fond of DiMaggio as well. Denny Mclain, pitched for Ted Williams back in the early ‘70’s when Williams managed the Senators. Denny said that Ted was one of the biggest a$$holes he ever met in his life. haha. Who knows? I do know that Big Frank Howard aka The Washington Monument, aka The Capital Punisher,, denied me an autograph. hehe. I was only a little tyke at the time. Damn big bastitch.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:39am, 06/10/2017

    Alt Knight-Amen about The Mick…how about this…. if Ted Williams hadn’t missed five full seasons because of military service he would have set many more records in addition to his .406 BA that still wouldn’t have been broken to this day by modern day athletes…. juiced or not!

  6. Alt Knight 06:31am, 06/10/2017

    Tyson could have very well gone on to be the greatest heavyweight of all time, even greater than Ali or Louis. The death of Cus D’Amato, the ill-fated marriage to Robin Givens started the downward spiral. Dismantling the original Team Tyson, and taking on losers like childhood friends/thugs and Don King preceded that fateful night in Japan. Going into his Tokyo match as a 42-1 favorite over a man named, Buster Douglas, Tyson was more content banging Japanese coochie than heavy bags. A highly emotionally charged, Douglas, had just lost his mother, and wasn’t about to be denied on this night by even a Mike Tyson, especially an overconfident and out of shape version of Iron Mike. A 3-year prison stint for rape, in which Tyson wasn’t allowed to box, hell, I don’t think they even had boxing equipment in there, and Iron Mike came out of the pen, only a shell of the guy who terrorized the division in the late ‘80’s. Could Lewis or Holyfield have beaten the 1986-1989 version of Mike Tyson? Holyfield = NO. Lewis? Given that Tyson always had some trouble with the big boys, Lewis would have had a chance, but I can certainly see Tyson coming out victorious there as well. Tyson is the boxing version of Mickey Mantle. So much God given talent, blessed with a rare combination of speed and power, and like Mantle, he had the potential to be the best of all time. Mantle’s weakness was drink and women, Tyson’s was a chaotic lifestyle. Both are still elite in their professions but they really could have been the greatest of all time.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:47pm, 06/09/2017

    McCall and Rahman only proved that Lennox was human,,,,he’s top ten ATG Heavyweights.

  8. Alt Knight 07:20am, 06/09/2017

    I have never seen a referee sweat like the ref in the Tyson-Lewis fight. Damn, that guy was sweating more than the fighters.

Leave a comment