Giants collided on this day in 2003 bringing together two of the top divisions greats in Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko in a promotion aptly labelled ‘Battle of the Titans’
Lewis was coming off a great victory, knocking out Mike Tyson in the eighth round in Memphis before taking a year hiatus away from the squared circle, passing over the opportunity to defend his IBF title against Chris Byrd.
Returning with vigour intentions turned to the Ukrainian who had stepped into the number one mandatory for the WBC title courtesy of a stoppage win over Larry Donald, talks were long and drawn out eventually losing momentum in falling away without a signature on the dotted line with the prospect of a lucrative rematch with Tyson replacing Vitali as the main focus.
The WBC ruled that Lewis could face Tyson but in so doing would have to agree that the winner would then have to face Vitali next, Tyson declined the offer leaving Lewis to accept the lesser threat of Kirk Johnson.
The stage was set for Lewis to face Johnson and Klitschko to appear on the undercard but as fate would have it, Johnson pulled out of the contest allowing the fight between Klitschko and Lewis to be made for June 21.
Klitschko was the underdog coming into the contest with expectations of Lewis being able to neutralise the power of the Ukrainian, all of which was far from the case.
Vitali won the first two rounds on the judges’ scorecards landing hard shots on the Brit, two in particular in the second which rocked Lewis, cutting him under the eye also.
Fighting fire with fire, Lewis came out for the third aggressively, landing a right hand within the first ten seconds of the restart, bringing claret down the face of klitschko with a grotesque looking cut appearing above his left eye.
Possibly with the urge to seek a knockout, Klitschko had a solid round four whilst Lewis looked fatigued but still landing shots to the ribs of Klitschko while in the clinch, a tactic that some suggested illegal.
The cut by this point was now gapping, Lewis using it to his advantage in the fifth was able to land successive shots as both looked spent from an already engaging war.
Lewis continued to use the impaired vision of Klitschko against him, landing a Monsterous uppercut in the six but as both men made it back to their stools, it was determined by the ringside doctor that the damage to Klitschko’s eye had become too severe and the fight would need to be stopped in between rounds six and seven, much to the dissatisfaction of the onlooking public.
Klitschko was ahead 58-56 on the scorecards with two judges giving Lewis only rounds three and six and the other rounds five and six.
POSSIBLE REMATCH AND RETIREMENT OF LEWIS
Due to the controversial ending, there were calls for a rematch between the two, calls that were initially welcomed by both men but as time went on Lewis changed his mind, instead opting for his retirement on February 7, 2004.