Former heavyweight boxing champs Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko appear to be in talks for an exhibition rematch 15 years after their first epic slugfest in 2003.
The proposed bout was announced through a press release by the World Boxing Council (WBC) on Tuesday. According to the release, Lewis and Klitschko had agreed to return to boxing for an exhibition rematch later this year at the WBC convention in Kiev, Ukraine.
However, the WBC released an update on July 11 suggesting that the announcement was made prematurely, and that Lewis had not yet been contacted about the proposal.
The team of Lennox Lewis communicated with the WBC to confirm that they have NOT yet contacted him to arrange an exhibition bout with Vitali Klitschko, during the Convention in Kiev.https://t.co/eDmRhbyrF1 via @wbcboxingpic.twitter.com/ZsDBDA8Beg— World Boxing Council (@WBCBoxing) July 11, 2018
The rematch, if it happens, would take place sometime between September 30 and October 5 at the Fairmont Grand Hotel.
Neither Lewis or Klitschko have publicly commented on the matter. Lewis took to Twitter on Wednesday to invite Klitschko to an upcoming Lewis celebration in London as well as offer a cryptic-sounding confirmation of his intention to be at the WBC convention in Kiev (translated from Russian):
“I hope to see you in my Undisputed evening in London on September 6. If not, I'll see you in Kiev, my friend.”
Neither camp responded to rematch confirmation requests from Gambling.com, which could mean the two are seriously discussing a rematch.
Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KOs), 52, defeated Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs), 46, in 2003 via sixth-round knockout in the last career title defense of the Brit’s outstanding reign as the premier heavyweight fighter of a generation.
Lewis retired after the fight, and Klitschko went on to establish his own impressive run at heavyweight, winning 13 straight fights over nine years until he retired after stopping Manuel Charr in 2012.
Both fighters retired from the sport as reigning WBC heavyweight title holders. Klitschko was elected mayor of Kiev in 2014 and is currently serving his second term in office. Lewis, the last undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing, has hinted at comebacks in the past, but never came seriously close to returning to the ring since retiring in 2004.
The first Lewis-Klitschko bout was one of the best heavyweight championship fights in history. The two men engaged in a brutal slugfest with Klitschko stunning Lewis early to grab a lead on all three official scorecards.
But Lewis opened a huge gash over Klitschko's left eye in the third round, and by the end of the sixth, Klitschko’s face was a bloody mess. Despite pleas from Klitschko to allow him to continue the fight, the bout was halted by the referee at the suggestion of the ringside physician before the start of round seven. Lewis was awarded the stoppage victory, and the fight world was abuzz with the enticing possibility of seeing the two in an immediate rematch.
Less than a year later, after some negotiating between the two camps, Lewis did some soul searching and chose to retire instead. Klitschko won the vacant WBC title less than a year later by stopping Corrie Sanders in the eighth round, and did not lose another fight before retiring in 2012.
Very little details about the proposed fight have been released so far, but some reports suggest the bout would be less like a legitimate professional boxing match and more like a boxing exhibition event for charity. That could mean a number of things, including limiting the total number of rounds to six or less, shorter round durations or even something like headgear for the fighters such as that worn in amateur boxing.
Klitschko’s former promoter, Tom Loeffler, responded to Gambling.com when asked if the fight would be a legitimate professional boxing contest:
“No, that’s supposed to be an exhibition as part of the WBC convention.”
Still, boxing fans would be incredibly excited to see whatever comes out of the possible event so long as it entails Lewis and Klitschko throwing punches at each other again in some way, shape or form. It’s hard to imagine either fighter taking it easy once the bell rings, so the show should provide plenty of action no matter what the rules of the event turn out to be.
Klitschko has been vocal over the years about the frustrating circumstances surrounding the rematch the fighter claims he was promised by Lewis after the first bout that never materialized.
Speaking to Sirius XM Boxing Radio last month, Klitschko indicated Lewis’ mother was the chief impediment to the failed negotiations, saying he sat down alone with Lewis and the fighter’s mom in London one day in an effort to get a contract signed, only to find out Lewis was going to retire instead:
“I come to his office I was really surprised Lennox was not alone, with his mom. We talk about the next fight, I guess two hours and mom doesn’t say one word. They scanned me with the eye, and the mom from Lennox was bigger and wiser…I know his mom was always in camp, mom was always by Lennox’s fights. I leave the office, Lennox calls me and told me, ‘Vitali, sorry, I no fight you’, and I understand. His mom don’t like me and says to Lennox, ‘Lennox, better not to fight Klitschko again.’” Regardless, both heavyweights had tremendous careers and are celebrated today as two of the best heavyweight champions ever. Lewis was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009 with Klitschko following in 2018. Both were admitted in their first year of eligibility.
Even if this exhibition fight doesn't go through, there's still several high-profile fights on the docket - and a whole new way to watch them.
Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are negotiating a huge title fight this fall. Meanwhile Golden Boy Promotions has reached an agreement with Facebook to stream live boxing later this year. While the Lewis-Klitschko fight could be a blast from the past, the future of boxing is equally exciting.