15. Lennox Lewis Vs Hasim Rahman II
November 17, 2001
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: Mandalay Bay
On April 22, 2001, Hasim Rahman scored one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he knocked out Lennox Lewis in South Africa to become the heavyweight champion of the world. Rahman was a 20-1 underdog and pulled off the biggest upset in heavyweight boxing since the February 1990 Buster Douglas knockout of Mike Tyson. After Rahman’s unexpected title winning effort, he was besieged with offers to fight Mike Tyson from Showtime and Don King to fight John Ruiz or Evander Holyfield. Rahman chose King’s offer as it included a five million dollar signing bonus. This led to the heavyweight championship of the world being contested in court.
Lewis sued Rahman, claiming Rahman had breached the terms of the contract for their first fight. That contract stipulated that Lewis had the right to an immediate rematch should he lose to Rahman. The courts ruled in favor of Lewis, forcing King and Rahman to immediately give Lewis a rematch. Lewis had been avoided for years by Tyson when King was Tyson’s promoter and wasn’t going to allow this to happen again as Lewis was now 36 and in the last leg of his career. This courtroom battle over getting the rematch added fuel to the fire that was burning inside Lennox’s body. He had to prove to the world that his knockout loss to Rahman was a fluke and not a sign that his skills were in decline.
In their South African fight, Lewis looked sluggish and unprepared. Rahman dominated the fight before Lewis dropped his hands in an uncharacteristic display of showmanship. Rahman quickly retaliated with a right cross that made Lewis appear to be a man drowning in a 10 foot pool as he was counted out. The rematch seven months later had the British great’s legacy on the line. Another loss to Rahman would significantly alter the perception of his claim to being the greatest heavyweight of his era. Hell, even a win by decision wouldn’t be total satisfaction. Lewis had to put on a performance of a lifetime. He did that and more.
The first three rounds of the second fight between Rahman and the former champion was Lewis exhibiting a master class in the usage of his left jab. Lewis pumped that jab with more emphasis than I’d had ever seen him do before. It was the Lewis jab that set up the spectacular finish. In the fourth round, Rahman was so preoccupied by Lewis’s left jab that Lennox was able to turn his left jab into a thunderous left hook that was quickly followed by a right cross that must’ve felt like a pallet jack as Rahman’s head bounced off the canvas. Rahman struggled to get up by the count of nine before falling back down face first to the canvas while referee Joe Cortez counted to ten. Lewis was back on top of the world and would remain that way before retiring three years later.
Five years later, Rahman would win the WBC version of the heavyweight title for a brief period before getting knocked out in the 12th and final round in losing the title to Oleg Maskaev. He would receive one final shot at a title against Wladimir Klitschko on December 13, 2008. Rahman received a brutal beating before the fight was stopped in the seventh round. More on Lewis in an upcoming article.