at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Lennox Lewis has told Russian promoters that he will come back to fight one of the Klitschko brothers for the biggest purse in boxing history. The 48-year-old, who is still the most recent undisputed world heavyweight champion, was offered $50million (£31.3m) in Moscow at the weekend while attending Wladimir Klitschko’s successful defence of his world titles against Alexander Povetkin.
Lewis responded by promising to return to the ring for $100m (£62.6m).
The promoters are considering doubling their bid and Lewis says: “That is my price tag and it is under discussion.
“I have told them I can be ready in six months and I am in provisional training.” Lewis, in London to launch his new training academy for potential world heavyweight champions, is running in Hyde Park each morning.
He reports himself to be “already well under 136kg”. He weighed around 111kg in his prime. Lewis believes that in a fight next spring he can surpass big George Foreman, who regained the title at the age of 48, as the oldest world heavyweight champion of all time.
His price for coming out of retirement would give him the biggest pay-note in boxing history.
Floyd Mayweather holds that record having been guaranteed $41.2million for last month’s super fight with Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez, with his take expected to rise to $70million once all the pay-per-view revenue is accounted for.
Lewis was talking in terms of $50million when he last considered a return to the ring.
Now he says: “I said at the time that it will take $50million to get me out of my pyjamas but now I have to consider the value of my legacy of having retired as undisputed champion. That will cost them $100million.”
That figure is clearly achievable in the modern boxing world. It is believed that the Russians are projecting a rematch of the fabled battle between Lewis and Vitali Klitschko in Los Angeles in 2003, which the Englishman won on cuts and a year after which he announced his retirement without having boxed again.
The older of the Klitschko brothers, now 42, who holds the WBC world title, has campaigned consistently for a return bout. And if that were to become his last fight before retiring to seek the presidency of his native Ukraine it would be worth an absolute fortune.
Lewis would prefer to fight Wladimir, 37, saying: “I beat Vitali so I would like to fight the other brother but we’ll see how it works out. I want to bring back the Sweet Science to heavyweight boxing.”
He was a more intent observer of Wladimir’s than most imagined while watching from ringside the younger Klitschko’s somewhat criticised victory over Povetkin.
The possibility of facing the holder of all the other heavyweight belts is on the mind of Lewis as he says: “In a way this fight confirmed my disappointment with the state of heavyweight boxing. The best they could find to challenge Wladimir was a kid who is not fully developed either physically or in terms of experience. People paid a lot of money in expectation of a great fight but Povetkin was not properly prepared for the most important fight of his career.
“Wladimir should have gone for the knockout after putting him down four times but I think he missed having (the late) Manny Steward in his corner. Manny would have told him what he told me when I fought Vitali – to go in and finish him.
“I suspect Wladimir had a problem with his right hand because as the fight went on he didn’t use it that often. But he showed great movement, was very light on his feet and was never in danger of losing.”
Lewis is aware of how severe the physical demands will be to come back at his age after 10 years out of the ring. He used to dedicate himself before big fights by going into seclusion in the Pocono mountains west of New York. Now he says: “I will go back to the mountains and into isolation. With the Russians involved I am thinking of training in Siberia.”
Anthony Joshua has sought the advice of Lewis during his transition from Olympic gold medallist at the London Games to his professional debut victory last Saturday and the former Olympic champion says: “Big Josh has the attributes to go all the way but we will have to see how it works out in his first 10 paid fights. It’s not fair to judge him before that.”
Clearly Lewis is confident he can beat all the younger pretenders, Tyson Fury and David Haye included, to the richest crown in sport.
As for the future, Lewis intends to be deeply involved. Youngsters of world heavyweight title potential are being invited to submit videos of themselves in action to a website being set up this week.
The most promising will then be offered a chance to train at one of three camps which Lewis is in the process of setting up in London, Canada and Jamaica.
He says: “The training of heavyweights is a specialised business and we will help these young men in all aspects of it, training, management and promoting included.”
THE WIZENED WARRIORS OF BOXING
George Foreman – After a decade out of the ring, he returned aged 38 and fought for another 10 years. He regained the IBF and WBA world titles he’d lost to Muhammad Ali 20 years previously by beating Michael Moorer in 1994.
Evander Holyfield – Quit in 1994 with a heart problem but returned after seeing a faith healer on TV. Last fought against Brian Nielsen in 2011.
Riddick Bowe – Retired at 28 to join the US Marine Corps Reserve but quit three days into training and returned to the ring seven years later. His last fight was in 2008, when he was 41.
Ricky Hatton – Quit after defeats by Floyd Mayweather in 2007 and Manny Pacquiao in 2009 but returned in 2012 to face Vyacheslav Senchenko, who stopped him in eight.
Sugar Ray Leonard – Retired four times from 1982 and 1997.
PS: Bernard Hopkins will defend his light-heavyweight title this month at 48 years, nine months. – Daily Mail