The debate rages on following Lennox Lewis speaking out over the mishandling of his legacy on Tuesday evening.
Lewis, retired since 2003, is recognized widely by the boxing world as the last undisputed world heavyweight champion of the modern era.
In 1999, the Londoner defeated Evander Holyfield to win the WBC, WBA, IBF and IBO in a time when the WBO was struggling for real status beyond the United Kingdom.
Fighters like Joe Calzaghe and Prince Naseem Hamed, through their promoter Frank Warren’s close ties with the World Boxing Organisation, were carrying the fairly new body to new heights in the late 1990’s
But at the heavyweight limit, the WBO was not actively sought out by the top fighters despite a younger Vitali Klitschko claiming the strap for a brief reign around the same time Lewis and Holyfield’s rivalry reached fever pitch.
Champions like Chris Byrd, Corrie Sanders, Lamont Brewster, Sultan Ibragimov, Shannon Briggs, Siarhei Liakhovich and even Vitali’s brother Wladimir failed to elevate the title to greater heights in boxing’s glamour division until the latter eventually got his hands on the unified crown which included the WBO belt in 2008.
This is when the WBO really took a foothold among the heavyweights as all attempted to claim Klitschko’s trio of belts, which eventually became four but never undisputed due to the lack of WBC.
So Lewis has a very valid point in saying the WBO was not as recognized back then, with even the promotion itself entitled; ‘UNDISPUTED’ on the poster.
Showtime attempted to stand by their comments made by some respected analysts, although the call does reek of the network attempting to dismiss an event purely because it was televised on rivals HBO.
“With great respect to Lennox Lewis, we stand by Mauro Ranallo and our research team,” said Showtime, with Al Bernstein adding: “All the semantic debates notwithstanding, I can say for myself and my Showtime colleagues that we have the utmost respect for champs like Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield and would never intentionally diminish their legacies for ANY reason.
Steve Farhood also weighed in with: “If we recognize the WBO as a legit world title, we can’t pick and choose WHEN we began to recognize them.
“Lennox Lewis never held all four belts. He was unified, but not undisputed–as long as you recognize the WBO,” which seems an unfathomable statement to make and akin to saying the status of an organization’s standing never changes through time.
Lewis himself has been dignified in his responses and received a massive amount of support for speaking out.
“The fact that then WBO champ Henry Akinwande dropped his belt to fight me for my WBC belt says it all! Politics aside, I beat their champ too! Done talking,” said Lewis.
The debate rumbles on…