- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Here's how much of an idiot I am: I'm not going to pay attention to what Evander Holyfield says about tonight's heavyweight title fight between champion Lennox Lewis and 911 Mike Tyson at the Pyramid Arena, and he knows a lot more about boxing than I do.
"Lennox is a very passive fighter," Holyfield said yesterday. "He always thinks about safety. Tyson will throw a lot of punches, and eventually one will hit [Lewis].
"Everyone has a natural style when they get hit," said Holyfield, who is coming off his victory over Hasim Rahman last week. "I think Lennox is very conservative. He will come out and try to do what he was told. But once one of those shots whiz by his ear, [Lennox] will do what he is always going to do, and that's fight conservatively. Anytime you take a step back against Tyson, you're in trouble."
It all sounded pretty convincing. Lewis has fought conservatively throughout his career. He fought conservatively against David Tua in their November 2000 bout. He fought conservatively in his two fights with Holyfield in 1999. He had a guy standing in front of him crying in the ring and refusing to fight five years ago when he met World Boxing Council champion Oliver McCall. Lewis refused to go after him, getting the win only after the fight was stopped in the fifth round and Lewis regained the WBC crown by mental breakdown.
But he didn't lose any of those fights. He won nearly all of them, and in the first Holyfield fight, the debacle in Madison Square Garden that was declared a draw, Lewis clearly should have been the winner.
It made no sense to try to knock out Tua, who has a chin of granite and has never been KO'd. Tua's only shot was to land one punch a left hand and he never got a chance to do that because he couldn't get past Lewis' powerful jab.
And it certainly made no sense for Lewis to go toe-to-toe with Holyfield, a terrific counterpuncher. That would have been playing into Holyfield's style, and as Holyfield said yesterday, "Styles make fights."
Holyfield couldn't get past Lewis' powerful jab either. It is not a Larry Holmes sharp jab, but it is very effective because it is hard and it hurts and no one not even Holyfield has been willing to pay the price to take it to get inside on Lewis.
Styles do make fights, and tonight's fight will be like George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier. Lewis will be Foreman and 911 Mike will be Frazier, bouncing off the canvas early and often.
Holyfield also said every fighter has a natural style when he gets hit. Holyfield's is to hit back. 911 Mike's is to stop fighting. That's why Holyfield could beat 911 Mike every time, and that is why Lewis will destroy 911 Mike tonight. When 911 Mike gets his first taste of that Lewis left jab, he will forget everything he supposedly has learned over the last 10 weeks of training I'm not convinced it has been that much and stop fighting.
Lewis won't stop fighting, though. He will come with a powerful right and keep coming and coming, towering over 911 Mike like a man over a boy, until 911 Mike is counted out or does something cowardly to get disqualified and avoid the embarrassment of a beating.
Lewis is not scared of 911 Mike. If anything, he is beside himself with rage against 911 Mike, in particular because of the fight that took place at the January news conference in which Lewis accused 911 Mike of biting his leg. "Lennox is very vindictive," said one person close to the Lewis camp. "He wants to kill Tyson for that."
I think Lewis will be mentally ready to go after 911 Mike and back him up early and often because he has the advantage of having the best trainer in boxing in his corner. Emanuel Steward has been with Lewis since 1995, while 911 Mike has been through a number of trainers and has a new one, Ronnie Shields, for this fight, along with co-trainer Stacey McKinley. They are not in Steward's league.
"Everybody Lewis has fought had the same plan, to get inside on him, so he is used to everyone trying to do that anyway," Steward said. "It is nothing new to him, but it is a new thing for Tyson to fight a big man who is talented and not afraid of him and will not be running from him. Lewis has a very strong left jab and physically is the type of opponent who can knock Tyson out with one punch. Tyson has a problem with having to be careful himself. He cannot run in like he did against all these other guys he has fought."
Down goes Tyson, down goes Tyson. Lennox Lewis wins in three. Then again, I haven't picked a fight right since Ali-Frazier I.
As far as Memphis is concerned, let's hope it survives the night. As the crowds arrive in town, officials here are very nervous about what could happen in both the arena and the streets of the city. Let's hope that a city with dreams of glory doesn't turn out instead to have nightmares.

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