Lewis, who turns 49 this year, was spectacularly wiped out by underdog Rahman on April 22, 2001 in Carnival City, Gauteng and has now admitted that his preparation for the contest could have been more thorough.
“I wanted to fight in Africa like my hero Ali did,” said Lewis. “But I should have arrived in South Africa earlier to get better acclimatized. I felt sluggish and winded, but you live u learn – sometimes the hard way!
“I can’t take anything away from Rahman though. He did everything he was supposed to do for that fight and it paid off for him.”
The three-time world title holder eventually won back his belts with his own crushing knockout seven months later. Lewis then went on to record victories over Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko before retiring from the sport as one of the best ever in the top division.
Rahman’s immediate redemption defeat may never have taken place though, explained Lewis, as the Londoner revealed a special clause in his own contract for the first fight blocked the American’s attempt to face Tyson himself.
“What most don’t know was Rahman tried to arrange a fight with Tyson immediately after South Africa despite my rematch clause,” said Lewis.
“He would have been able to fight Tyson if it wasn’t for a second ‘personal guarantee’ that we also made him sign outside of fight contract.”
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