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Old 03-07-2004, 10:28 PM   #1
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Default [Sports Central Newsletter] - #110 - Exit Enigma

The Sports Central Newsletter
March 2004 - Issue #110

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor
- What's New at Sports Central?
- Shots From the Lip: "Lewis Exits Boxing Still an Enigma"



Hello folks,

You'll notice a couple changes in this month's issue. Brad's taking this issue off for a well-deserved vacation, and Mike's "Featured Article" is now "Shots From the Lip," a jazzier name to his excellent editorials that you will only find in this newsletter. You'll also want to check out what's new on the site this week: we've got stuff on baseball steroids, NBA referee controversy, hockey trade deadline deals, a defense of Chris Webber, and a baseball pennant prediction. Stay tuned as we get our March Madness coverage into full-gear in the coming weeks. It's a good time to be a hoops fan!

On a final note, it's worth mentioning that Sports Central got a flattering write-up by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), the behemoth media giant across the Atlantic. Check out what they had to say about Our Little Site That Could: http://www.bbcworld.com/content/clic...66&co_pageid=6

Yours digitally,

- Marc James
mailto:[email protected]


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A look back at the new articles from the week of 03/01/04 - 03/07/04:


COLUMN: Jester's Quart: Great moments in baseball's steroid history
By Greg Wyshynski

Jeff Kent was slammed for claming Babe Ruth was on steroids. SC's Greg Wyshynski not only thinks Kent was right, he reveals how much deeper baseball's anabolic legacy goes. Plus, rants on Terrell Owens, Brian Leetch, the Academy Awards, Mel Gibson, and another headache for St. John's ... all in the latest Jester's Quart.



NBA: NBA sends a message to refs
By Doug Graham

Just how important are the jobs of NBA referees? Michael Henderson is an NBA referee who was suspended for three games because he blew an important call. Here's why this harsh action by the NBA is going to help the game out in the future.



NHL: Trade off: Deadline deals
By Mike Chen

Big names have already changed teams leading up to the 2004 NHL trade deadline. While these transactions provide excitement for media and fans, their ultimate worth cannot be gauged until the Stanley Cup is awarded. Want proof? Let's examine some of the consequences.



NBA: Trapped in a C-Webb of trouble
By Tony Arnoldine

Chris Webber has been unfairly singled out and used as a scapegoat for the problems of a corrupt system where boosters run the game. SC's Tony Arnoldine tells us why Webber isn't the only one we should blame.



NFL: The wizard of Washington
By Brad Oremland

Joe Gibbs is playing Dorothy to Daniel Snyder's Wizard of Oz, following the same Yellow Brick Road that took Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, and Steve Spurrier to disaster. Will he pull aside the curtain in time to save his legacy in D.C.?



MLB: Cubs in position to win pennant
By Shane McKiness

Last year, the Chicago Cubs had the worst record of any of the eight playoff teams, including the two wildcards. That being the case, they were able to advance to the NLCS. So why are they being discounted?




"Lewis Exits Boxing Still an Enigma"

By Mike Round

Hardly any champion quits when on top of the world. Normally, the world's best prefer to linger and pocket some extra dough, while the fans and pundits reflect on their better days. Yet Lennox Lewis, the WBC and IBF World Heavyweight Champion, went out at the top, thus proving, even at the end, he was his own man. Lewis is wealthy, healthy, and leaves a brutal sport as intelligent a man as he entered it. Yet, after over 15 years in the ring, the question remains -- just how good was Lennox Lewis?


As a child, I was in awe of heavyweight boxers and spellbound by the succession of big fights of the 1970s. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, George Foreman, and the lesser men, like Ernie Shavers, the Spinks brothers, and Jerry Quarry, regularly battled it out in some legendary bouts that captivated the sporting world. The 1970s were halcyon days for heavyweight boxing, an era in which the sport dominated the back pages.

History's most underrated heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes, picked up the baton in the late '70s as best he could, but by then, the seeds of boxing's self-destruction had been sewn. Too many championship belts, too many governing bodies, and too much Don King meant boxing went into an almost terminal decline. Nowadays, hardly anyone cares who is champion of what. Even sports freaks would struggle to name three active heavyweight boxers.

Against this background of implosion, Lennox Lewis has spent the best part of 10 years as a world champion, an achievement that would, ordinarily, merit considerable fanfare. Yet Lewis has never captured the imagination of either the press or the public. He's the Chinese meal of boxing -- he's nice enough, but you still fancy a substantial hamburger after.

Lewis burst onto the scene in the Seoul Olympics, defeating Riddick Bowe to win gold. He was already a mountain of a man, 6-foot-5 inches tall and 250 lb. and used every inch and pound to physically dominate the technically superior Bowe. Comparing such a gigantic man to the champions of the 1970s is ridiculous. Men like Frazier, Ali, and Norton were 200 lb. and only Ali of the three hit six-foot. An imaginary bout between Ali and Lewis could only end in a resounding victory for the bigger man. But, while the Ali legacy and fame live on throughout the world, Lennox Lewis lives in comparative sporting anonymity.

One problem Lennox Lewis had was that he wasn't American. He also wasn't British, though he fought under the Union Jack. He wasn't very Canadian either, though he was brought up in Ontario. He was Jamaican, which isn't great box office, hence his adoption of the British flag of convenience. He never captured the imagination of the British people, who preferred that loveable (and very British) loser Frank Bruno. Likewise, America remained largely indifferent to the cerebral and charisma-challenged Lewis.

Britain had waited longer for a world heavyweight champion than the Red Sox have waited for a World Series win, yet there was no spontaneous outbreak of joy on the streets of London in October 1992 when Lewis defeated Razor Ruddock. This was no doubt partly due to the fact that Lewis had only won a title eliminator. He was actually awarded the WBC belt in December 1992 when Riddick Bowe put his in the trash can rather than agree to fight Lewis. Only a sport as poorly administered as boxing could make such hash of determining a champion.

Here lies Lennox Lewis's primary problem. He never had that big defining fight on his résumé. He won his championship by decree and defended it cautiously. The much-anticipated rematch of the Olympic bout with Riddick Bowe never happened. Bowe clearly didn't fancy it -- having lost a short bout with Lewis with headgear, Bowe and his management were less than confident about winning over 12 rounds without protection. Bowe relinquished his title rather than step in the ring with Lewis and faded from the scene entirely, succumbing to personal problems.

Not that Lewis exactly busted a gut to get Bowe in the ring with him. Lewis knew Bowe was dangerous and preferred to fight stiffs like Bruno and Tony Tucker. Throughout his career Lewis was either shrewd enough to avoid dangerous opponents or plain lucky. He managed to avoid Bowe entirely and kept a wide berth of Evander Holyfield until 1999, when Holyfield was clearly a spent force. Similarly, Mike Tyson's fitness, mental, and legal battles kept him away from Lewis until 2002, by which Tyson was a shadow of his former self. The best challenge the best in order to enhance their reputation -- Ali never avoided anyone. Lewis seemed more interested in his bank balance and a cushy ride.

Late in 1994 his strategy looked questionable as Lewis suffered a TKO to unheralded Oliver McCall. Lewis looked ponderous and ill prepared and paid the price. He duly regained the crown 2 ? years later, winning the Vegas rematch with McCall with a TKO in the 5th but the damage to his résumé was done.

The defeat to McCall, and the later one to Hasim Rahman in South Africa, leaves a big blot on Lewis's career. Both men should have been dispatched with consummate ease, but on both occasions, Lewis let himself down badly. The press, especially in Britain, labeled him casual, lacking in determination and aggression -- a boxing mercenary only interested in money. He certainly never conformed to the norm in a sport where the combatants are generally at the lower end of the evolutionary scale.

Lewis gave the impression on more than one occasion that boxing was beneath him and in many ways it was. There is a distasteful atmosphere in a sport dominated by the repulsive Don King. The ludicrous press conferences, constant trash talk, and blatant hype was never Lewis's style. He refused to descend to the gutter, preferring to respect his profession and live a quiet family life. It was a choice that never impressed HBO, who prefer the alleged "charisma" of Tyson.

Nevertheless, if Lewis were American, he'd have got a lot more respect -- and a lot more money. His face would have been splashed on cereal boxes and he'd have grabbed a heap of lucrative endorsements. He retires a wealthy man but, ultimately, partly an enigma.

So where does Lewis rank in heavyweight history? Blatantly, he left his sport without leaving the huge footprint that Ali did. He also failed to go undefeated, as Rocky Marciano did. Larry Holmes had greater application and a better record. Likewise, Frazier. Joe Louis had equal talent, but little intelligence. Sonny Liston was meaner, but tainted. George Foreman was big and brutal with a huge punch, but little longevity at his prime. Evander Holyfield was a true warrior with more bravery and the ability to get up from the canvas and still win a fight. Mike Tyson, at his peak, was awe-inspiring, but fought outgunned mediocre opponents until the tail end of his career.

Lewis was definitely the best of his generation and, for me, better than Louis, Liston, Frazier, Holyfield, Foreman, and Tyson. Only Marciano, Ali, and Holmes, post-WW2, stand above him. He can be proud of his career. His biggest challenge might be staying retired because he is sure to receive lucrative offers to return to a division devoid of pulling power.


Mike welcomes your feedback on his column: mailto:[email protected]?subject=SFTL
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)


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