It was one of the biggest heavyweight title shock upsets of the 1990’s when on September 24, 1994 Oliver McCall stopped Lennox Lewis in two rounds to win the WBC Heavyweight title. Lewis was making his fourth title defense, and seemed on the way to superfights with Tyson, Holyfield and Bowe but “The Atomic Bull” re-arranged the entire division with one punch. McCall took time out to talk about his history-making win…
BoxingInsider: One of the things I always remember from your first fight with Lennox Lewis in London was the astonishing sight of you crying on your walk to the ring. And you told me after returning to America that the reason you were crying was because “you knew your life was about to change.” Just to make sure, is that why you cry?
Oliver McCall: “I usually cry when I go to the ring anyway. So I can pump myself up emotionally. So I can really inflict what I need to inflict on my opponent. That’s my only way of really pumping myself up other than him actually hitting me. Before I do so.”
BoxingInsider: How did you know that you were going to win the fight? I remember seeing you come out to Diana Ross’s hit “I’m Coming Out” and you really looked like you could win this thing.
Oliver McCall: “Well, I felt I was gonna win that fight off the sparring, off the condition that I was in. And I was sparring with Tony TNT Tucker who went the distance with Lennox Lewis. And the way I was boxing him I just knew that Lennox couldn’t last. And so Tony Tucker, he came and worked with me in Mexico and the boxing that we had, I had the confidence that it was just a matter of time. Soon as I hit Lennox, he was gonna go.”
BoxingInsider: Are you surprised at how Lennox Lewis went on to the great success after that? It almost seemed like you kind of contributed to helping make him become a better fighter.
Oliver McCall: “Somewhat. But Lennox Lewis did become a great fighter. Lennox Lewis still did not – I was not impressed with Lennox for one reason – because with his height, with his ability, he still didn’t put out the best that he could have been. He fought a little too cautious. He could have been, not just a great fighter but he could have been among the greatest of fighters. I really think that he really could have been if he really would have put his all into it.”
BoxingInsider: He never showed his best? His full potential?
Oliver McCall: “Well, he showed his best of what he’s capable of. But his heart, as far as taking a risk, was nothing like the other great champions, like Joe Louis, Ali and those guys, even Larry Holmes. I would really rate Lennox Lewis a couple of notches less than Larry Holmes, back when Holmes was reigning as heavyweight champion – for 7 1/2 years. Because the acts of Larry Holmes – plus the opposition was about the same – but the acts was just a little bit more than Lennox Lewis. He was a good front-runner. But when he was in trouble, he held a lot and things like that.”
BoxingInsider: Who was the hardest puncher you faced?
Oliver McCall: “Bert Cooper. Left hook. That was the hardest punch that I ever felt and that I had to overcome. It felt like a truck had hit me. I never got hit by a truck but it felt like if a truck would have hit me.”
BoxingInsider: Who else is up there? Lennox?
Oliver McCall: “No, Lennox wasn’t one of the hardest punchers that I…Buster Douglas hit me harder than Lennox did. Right hand.”
BoxingInsider: How about Tyson? Is he up there?
Oliver McCall: “Tyson right there too. Lennox would probably be about fifth.”