Not blogging recently because of a number of long-term projects eating up my time not least among them my long-term "chasing kids, cooking dinner, then eating too much and passing out after reading two paragraphs of a book" project.
One of my more productive projects right now is my attempt to put together a documentary about the Patterson Era in the heavyweight division. I've watched every meaningful heavyweight championship fight from 1956-2002 (and I'm currently holding my nose through the insignificant ones). I've plowed through books by Arthur Mercante, Sr., Angelo Dundee, Ferdie Pacheco, and a laundry list of other boxing people who can't write a lick but have eight million stories to tell.
During that time, I've become consumed by one question: why is Lennox Lewis so lightly regarded, historically speaking? Here is a man who held some form of the heavyweight title for almost the entire period from 1993 (when he beat Tony Tucker to become the WBC champ) to 2003, when he stopped Vitali Klitschko on cuts and retired with the Patterson belt. He fought absolutely everyone there was to fight, and was beaten twice - two early knockouts to second-tier fighters whom Lennox would later rematch and destroy.
"Who was the best?" and "Who has the best resume?" are not the same question. Kobe Bryant may well retire with a better resume than Michael Jordan; few will ever argue that Kobe is better than MJ.
Still, and discussion of athletes must begin with the question of who did the most in his career. During the Patterson era, there's no question the top dog is Ali, for so many resons. But after that, doesn't the discussion have to quickly turn to Lennox Lewis? Who did more?
Not Holmes, who put together a great run from 1978 (when he squeaked by Ken Norton to win the WBC title) to 1983 (when he squirmed away from a tough, slick but strategically hopeless Tim Witherspoon). First of all, you don't get to Valhalla by ducking guys, and Holmes ducked more than his share at the end of his reign. He would have been better off fighting the best and taking his medicine when it came in the form of Mike Tyson than burdening the world with those two mindbendingly strange and boring decision losses to Michael Spinks. (Seriously, watch those fights if you want to know how something can be "mindbendingly strange" and also "boring" at the same time. On second thought, don't.)
Certainly not Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield; good fighters who also happened to be Lennox Lewis' age and who between them turned in three stink-bomb performances against Lewis. Holfield's first Lewis fight resulted in one of the great screw-job points draws in boxing history, allowing him to keep his belts after a fight he clearly lost and also allowing him (and thus his handlers, who included Don King) to command a larger share of the purse in the rematch (also a convincing Holyfield decision loss, this time scored that way.) The less said about Tyson's effort against Lewis the better. Suffice it to say that the fight was a tactical mismatch and that Tyson gave no sign in the fight that he ever could have contended with Lewis at any point in the latter's reign.
Floyd Patterson himself had a good career, but only a silly old white-haired ex-trainer who watched him beat Ingemar Johansson to end the 358-day reign of the only white heavyweight champion of the Patterson era would ever try to make the case that he was better than Lennox Lewis. Lewis would have destroyed Patterson, who was small and easy to knock down even for his era.
So more and more the focus of what I'm doing is falling on Lennox Lewis rather than the rest of the era. I'm not super-excited about that because there are already some Lennox docs out there that do a decent job telling his story (though none of them are particularly good films), but that's the direction things seem to be going in nonetheless.
Just thought I'd share.