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Lewis lists Holyfield as his ‘toughest opponent’

Lennox Lewis believes Evander Holyfield is the toughest opponent he ever fought in the ring during his illustrious boxing career, not the likes of Mike Tyson or Vitali Klitschko.

Great rivals Holyfield and Tyson have both announced recently that they are set to return to the sport for charity bouts in the near future.

Brit Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, has faced them both but his two fights with Holyfield in 1999 are the stuff of heavyweight legend.

Although their first fight ended in a contentious draw, Lewis avenged what he and everyone else felt was a robbering by claiming a unanimous victory over the ‘Real Deal’.

And, although he conceded neither encounter with Holyfield was his toughest fight, he admitted the former undisputed cruiserweight champion was his arduous test.

“People seem to be genuinely surprised when I tell them [Holyfield] was my toughest opponent, not to be confused with my toughest fight, which was [Ray] Mercer, but when you really dive into why that is, it actually makes a lot of sense,” the 54-year-old wrote on Instagram.

“Holyfield, like me, has an extensive amateur pedigree that has served him well throughout his professional career. He started boxing at eight years old and was an Olympic bronze medalist in 1984. Before he moved up to the heavyweight division, he’s a man that cleared out the cruiserweight division to become the undisputed champion, and arguably the best ever, in that weight class.

“That’s a lot of experience and it’s safe to say that by the time we met for the undisputed heavyweight championship in 1999, he had seen it all. When you combine Evander’s amateur and professional experience, you would be hard pressed not to see the kind of success he’s had in the ring.

“I may tease him a bit on our two fights, he knows I won both fights even though he won’t admit it, but in all seriousness, he’s the only man that has gone 24 rounds with me.”

Both men gained extensive pedigree before making it to the professional ranks, although it was Lewis who excelled at heavyweight by defeating the likes of Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko and Oliver McCall to confirm his status as the best of his era.

But the West Ham-born fighter owes his career at the pinnacle of the sport to his years spent in the gyms across Canada as an amateur.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of amateur experience,” he wrote. “Consider the amateurs as your internship into the pros. The more you learn about your craft, the better it will serve you.

read also:Boxing: Holyfield announces surprise return at 57

“Me and Evander’s extensive amateur experience brought us to the top of our games. In a sport where there are no guarantees, and even one mistake can end in disaster, it’s important to play the odds. So although we have both had setbacks in our careers, there was very little chance that the success we sought in the sport of boxing would not be reached based on our experience.”

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