It was 20 years ago today
Mister Lewis had it all his way.
He knew we would enjoy the show,
Little did the US know.
The Lion mauled The Real Deal
He was taking all those big belts home, we love to take them home.
(With apologies to The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper)
Lennox Lewis poses with the WBA, IBO, WBC and IBF world heavyweight championship belts in New York in November 1999 after becoming the undisputed champion
On November 13, 1999 Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
These full two decades later that is a distinction which Lewis is still the last to call his own.
On that cool desert evening Lewis and Holyfield met in the rematch of a night in New York's Madison Square Garden, seven months earlier to the day, which had become over-heated by controversy.
On March 13 that same year the judges declared a draw and most of the boxing world cried foul, largely as convinced as Lewis himself that he had made a meal of The Real Deal only to be robbed of his just deserts.
The bulk of the vitriol was poured over a lady. Eugenia Williams was the one official who scored in favour of Holyfield. She was quick to admit she made a hash of giving Lewis's best round, the fifth, to Holyfield and should therefore have called it a draw. Although that would not have altered the result because British judge Larry O'Connell had them level.
The outrage became so inflamed that the US Congress set up a committee to investigate. Little came of it despite mutterings of corruption and a fix.
Lewis became undisputed champion after two titanic battles against Evander Holyfield
Holyfield lands a blow on Lewis in their first bout, at Madison Square Garden in March 1999
The pair embrace after the fight was called a draw, which Lewis accepted magnanimously
His trainer, Emanuel Steward, reads the New York Post after the fight, which proclaimed a 'robbery' - most observers had Lewis as the clear winner, despite the judges scorecards
The only certainty was that the two protagonists were going to split 30 million more dollars for doing it again.
And so we came to Sin City.
There seemed to be as many Hollywood celebrities gathered in the Thomas and Mack Center as stars in the velvet Nevada sky above.
As we stood at adjacent basins in the men's room, Jack Nicholson noticed the media credential around my neck and asked: 'You like your guy tonight?'
'I do,' I replied. 'Size matters and Lennox won't make the same mistake again of taking rounds off.'
'Yeah, maybe. But my 10 bucks says Evander.'
We did not bump into each in the after-frenzy and although Nicholson is a ringside regular at big fights our paths have not crossed that closely since, so I still haven't collected.
Not a problem. We were both treated to a fight far livelier than the first.
Hollywood stars Michael Douglas (left) and Jack Nicholson were gripped by the fight
There is an old saying in America that 'second time around is a rhubarb.' To which this re-run was a fruity exception.
Holyfield, who had been surprisingly passive early in the Garden, was aggressively pro-active now. Lewis came out more often from behind that long, ramrod left jab to exchange jolting combinations.
They split the opening few rounds and thereafter the ebb and flow became more dynamic, more thrilling and more arousing for the sell-out crowd of 19,000.
'Holy, Holy, Holy,' roared the Americans as their man dominated the middle of the fight. 'Only one Lennox Lewis,' chanted the travelling Brits as he stormed back.
The 12th and last was a slugfest which had them all on their feet.
The unanimous verdict came down in favour of Lewis and it was Holyfield's turn to raise the rueful eyebrow.
'Of course I think I won,' he said with a shrug. 'But after the uproar in New York I was never going to get this decision. I knew that even though we are in America I had to knock Lennox out to win. And I didn't do it.'sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled