National Conference Call Transcript World Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis,
Thursday, April 24 2003
World Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis returns to the ring Saturday June 21, at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles to defend his crown against Kirk Johnson. It has been nearly one year since Lewis solidified his standing as boxing’s premier heavyweight by knocking out Mike Tyson in the eighth round of their showdown in Memphis. Now in his first defense since putting the stamp on his legacy, Lewis takes on an intriguing challenge from Johnson, the Nova Scotia native, who recently knocked out Lou Savarese and now has designs on springing an upset. The event, presented by Lion Promotions and Gary Shaw Productions in association with Prize Fight Promotions and STAPLES Center, will be distributed and telecast live by HBO Pay-Per-View.
Question: What has Johnson done to deserve this fight?
Lewis: Johnson has been around a long time. He had a great knockout against Lou Savarese. I think he is well deserving of a shot. I think he is very dangerous, and I think it is about time he gets a chance to box the heavyweight champion of the world.
Question: Is Johnson more deserving than Chris Byrd?
Lewis: I cannot fight everyone at once. I have to take one at a time. I think Kirk Johnson is a more exciting fighter than Chris Byrd. A lot of people agree with me when it comes to that. Johnson throws some heavy punches and is a knockout fighter. This is what people want to see. They want to see a fight, they want to see punches and they want to see action.
Question: Do you care if Mike Tyson is on this card with you?
Lewis: We are optimistic about it (Tyson fighting on the card). I am not really worried about it now. I am worried about myself. I am the heavyweight champion of the world, and the greatest heavyweight you have seen for a long while. With Tyson on the card, it is definitely an added bonus because Lewis-Tyson on the same card would be a great doubleheader. This is what the fans want to see.
Question: What are your feelings about your World Boxing Council (WBC) belt not being at stake in this fight?
Lewis: What is at stake is my linear championship, and that is the most important championship there is. That is greater than any other championship belt out there. The linear belt is the best in the world. There is no higher.
Question: what is motivating you for this fight?
Lewis: I had time to actually rest. People are still crying out for Lennox Lewis. They still want to see Lennox Lewis. That motivated me. I am still young. I have a couple fights left in me. People want to see me back in the ring. I think it is more of a drag lying around on the beach. There is still some work out there to be done, and I am the man for the job. I am the king right now, and people are excited to see me.
Question: Have you missed being away from the gym and all the hype of a championship fight?
Lewis: I have missed that a little bit. I have been around, though. I have commentated on a couple of fights. I am still in the game and still training. So, I have been around. I am here and I am prepared.
Question: Do you think it is Johnson, then Mike Tyson for you?
Lewis: Let me get past Johnson first.
Question: What kind of shape are you in?
Lewis: I am in great shape. I have been doing a lot of maintenance work. Right now, my body is telling me to go into camp and get into better shape in the next few weeks.
Question: What are you referring to when you say there are still good matches left for you?
Lewis: It is what the public decides. I have seen a lot of hype in the paper from people who say they want a shot at me. They may not be as good as me, but if people want to see it, then it will make for an exciting fight.
Question: Were you disappointed when Wladimir Klitschko lost to Corrie Sanders?
Lewis: I said I am going to have one Klitschko for breakfast and one Klitschko for lunch, and he basically took my breakfast.
Question: Do you see the sport of boxing in trouble after you, Roy Jones, Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya retire? Is there anyone coming behind you guys that can be a big attraction like you guys have been?
Lewis: There should be, and if there is not, there will be others coming after us. Every era that comes along has a superstar that emerges. Once we are out of the game, there will be a superstar who will emerge that everyone will notice.
Question: What do you remember about Johnson from your Olympic days?
Lewis: Johnson has been living in my shadow for a while. We are both Olympians, and we both boxed at the world juniors, which we both won. It is about time he gets a chance, and the Canadian people get a chance to see us together.
Question: What is left for you to do in your career?
Lewis: There is not too much left for me to do, but I am sure there are a couple of great fights out there for me. I have basically achieved my goals. There are a few fights the public wants to see, and that is really what is left for me.
Question: How is it that this fight with Johnson came along as opposed to Vitali Klitschko or someone else?
Lewis: I believe this fight is the more exciting fight. This is a guy who just had a great knockout, and he is out there trying to knock people out. People want to see what will happen when these two big men actually meet.
Emmanuel Steward: Lennox asked me if I had a preference between Johnson, or Vitali Klitshcko, and I told him I did not. I thought Vitali probably brought more marketability to the table, but in terms of the opponent, I felt that Johnson was a more dangerous opponent because he is better coordinated, punches very fast, and has much more power. I feel this fight against Johnson is the better fight.
Question: Gary, what is the status of the contractual obligations between Lewis and Tyson, and what is holding up announcing Tyson on this card?
Gary Shaw: Tyson announced he did not feel like he was able to fight Lewis at this stage in his career. He respected Lewis as the world champion, and for what happened in the ring in Memphis, and he wanted an interim fight. The only thing right now is June 21. After June 21, Lewis will make his own decisions on a next fight. As for having Tyson on the card for this fight, we just have not completed a potential deal for him to fight on this card, but we are cautiously optimistic.
Question: Lennox, what are two Canadian fighters doing fighting in Los Angeles instead of in Canada, or somewhere closer to Canada?
Lewis: I am proud to be here in Los Angeles. I have a lot of fans that love me here. When you talk about the Meccas of boxing – Las Vegas, New York – now you have to talk about Los Angeles.
Question: What happened with the potential fight against Vitali Klitschko?
Adrian Olgun (Lewis’ Adviser): We entered into negotiations with Vitali in good faith. We believed when we communicated our tremendous offer, which amounted to $4 million for him to fight, if it had been properly passed along from the promoter to the boxer, I am sure Vitali would have come to the table. We believe there is a problem there.
Lewis: Vitali does want to fight me, but his promoter wants to be bigger than him. This is another situation of politics in the sport.
Question: Will this card be as successful without Tyson on the card?
Shaw: It is going to be a very successful show, and the only thing that changes with Tyson on the card is the price of the tickets.
Question: Why is there so much interest in making another fight with Tyson?
Lewis: When we first signed for the fight, we actually signed for two fights. We have completed one. There are still a lot of Mike Tyson fans out there, and a lot of disbelievers in the first fight, and they want to see us fight again. I am the emperor. If he wants to fight, I am here. If he does not, I understand.
Question: Do you think it is good for the sport when the heavyweight champion does not fight for a year?
Lewis: You have to remember I have been busy for a long time. I am deserving of a rest. They basically wanted to see the Tyson fight. I went out there, boxed the Tyson fight, and now I am deserving of a little rest. I am just taking the top fights out there for me. People will get bored seeing me every day knock someone out.
Question: What do you think of Tyson being an undercard fighter?
Lewis: I do not look at him as an undercard fighter. He and I are basically on the same card, which is what the public wants to see and is excited about. I would not say he is an undercard fighter at all.
Question: Are you looking to fight twice this year?
Lewis: That is fair to say.
Question: Why did you feel like you needed a break?
Lewis: I have been boxing.
Steward: Lewis has been fighting a long time, since he was 12 years old. Having a break really did not hurt him at all. He did not have a standout challenger to fight. As of now, aside from Roy Jones, I have not seen a lot come out of the heavyweight division.
Question: Is your size an advantage?
Lewis: I have always said I am a five-dimensional fighter. I feel Kirk is three-dimensional.
Question: Do you think you will be sharp after such a long layoff?
Lewis: I am sure there will be some ring rust, but only in the first 30 seconds. You can consider me like fine wine. I just get better with age.
Question: At this stage in your career, are there things you have not displayed in the ring?
Lewis: Different fights bring out different things. I consider myself a seasoned professional. I have done things in the gym that have not come out yet. People would be amazed if they saw me train.