LAS VEGAS -- Spurred, on by some 6,000 or more of his countrymen, London's Lennox Lewis scored a unan-imous decision over Evander Holyfield last night at the Thomas & Mack Center and became the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 1992.
Holyfield (36-4-1) had oeen the reigning International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association champ, and Lewis (35-1-1) the World Boxing Council champ. The division is now unified for the first time since Riddick Bowe.
Lewis' victory left the United States without a world boxing heavyweight champion for the first time since 1959. when Ingemar Johansson of Sweden took the title from America's Floyd Patterson Lewis is England's first champ since Bob Fitzsimmons in the 1800s.
The first bout between Lewis and Holyfield, on March 13 at Madison Square Garden, ended in a controversial draw. This one, how ever was unanimous. Chuck Giampa scored the fight 116-112, Jerry Roth scored it 115-113, and Bill Graham had it 117-111.
While Lewis earned all three titles, he was only presented with the WBA belt to go with the WBC belt. The IBF refused to present its belt to him in a dispute over a $300.000 sanctioning fee which was apparently accepted before the fight, according to the Associated Press.
"I realized that he was doing nothing with me in there in the be-ginning," Lewis, 34. said. "At the same time. I was playing with him in there because, when I was jab-bing him, he was coming in with his head.
"With all that was on the line coming in, I had to un/tv the belts. I went though some trials and tribulations in there with him. The money is big over here in America. I'm Just going to chill out and rel-ish the moment."
Said Holyfield: "Of course I was surprised by the decision. I was Just fighting. I just fight and let the Judges decide. Of course I'm disappointed, but life is life.
"I hit him with some good shots, and I thought it would eatch up to him. I hurt him a couple of times. I do all that I can. I didn't get hurt with the jab this time. I was able to counter off his shots. But he was able to come back after I hit him with a couple of shots. The big thing in life is that you give it your all. When it falls into the judges' hands, you have to live with their decision."
The bout didn't necessarily win the approval of one of England's boxing personalities.
"The significance is that it is a great victory for British boxing be-cause of the glamour of the heavy-weight division, but ! don't think the fight lived up to the status of the title," said veteran British matchmaker, promoter and man-ager Mirkey Duff, who has been in-volved with 19 world champions.
"But I didn't think Lewis boxed as well as last time. He was hurt more this time than last time, and I think Holyfield boxed a lot bet-ter. Still, I did have Lewis winning, 8-3-1, in rounds."
Last night, the 6-foot-5 Lewis was again stronger than the 6-2V2 Holyfield. He again connected on more total punches (195-137), more jabs (76-52) and power punches (119-85) as Holyfield failed to steal Lewis' heart.
Winning rematches had been no~hing new for Holyfield, 36, who always has been a survivor.
Just 12 fights into his career, Holyfield decisioned veteran Dwight Qawi, and in a rematch, knocked him out in four rounds.
Against Mike Tyson, Holyfield scored an 11th-round knockout the first time they fought, then frustrated him the second time into twice biting his ears and being disqualified.
Last night, some in the crowd saw the first half of the fight as dull, and booed. But in the later rounds, the action picked up.
Like the first fight, Lewis' jab again was a problem for Holyfield.
Lewis was ahead after seven rounds on each of the official cards.
Lewis regained control in the eighth round, landing a good counter and several hard body shots,
He won the last five rounds on one card, four of five on another and three of five on the third.
"I was jabbing in the early rounds because he was coming in with his head," Lewis said.
Lewis jabbed to start the 10th. Holyfield, the crowd chanting his name, tried but missed with reaching punches, and, for his efforts, took a right to the jaw. Another short right hand from Lewis caught him coming in, as did a short left. Lewis landed another right uppercut. He appeared to have weathered any kind of Holyfield storm as he delivered yet an-other right uppercut on Holyfield just before the bell.
"It was little tougher than the first fight," Lewis said.
Critics of Lewis had always argued that it all came too easily for him, that he did not face enough obstacles to be a world champion.
The WBC title Bowe trashed was subsequently awarded to Lewis, who then was granted a whopping $9 million for his lack-luster first title defense, a 12-round decision over Tony Tucker.
Lewis got $7 million each for knockouts of Frank Bruno and Phil Jackson, respectively. He also suffered an upset loss to OliVer McCall.
Last night, however, Lewis proved a worthy champion.
In the third round, Holyfield circled Lewis and continued to jab. He missed with a right but landed another right uppercut. A left uppercut by Lewis landed. Holyfield jabbed and reached with a right but missed both, and Lewis countered with a right. Holyfield, however, was unable to get inside of Lewis' defenses and appeared respectful of his jab.
Holyfield landed twice in Round 9, but Lewis came back with a hard punch of his own. Lewis landed three times to the body and twice to the head during a clinch with uppercuts. Holyfield hooked to the head three times, and Lewis hammered a right to the head. Lewis landed a left after the bell.
In the 11th, Lewis was standing, flat-footed, in the middle of the ring, wanting to fight. He was jabbing to the head and body. Holyfield leaped in with a left that landed softly. Lewis landed a combination to the body.
On the undercard, WBA super lightweight champ Sharmba Mitchell, a Takoma Park resident, got a "good-luck" hug from welterweight champion Felix Trinidad,
That luck held up at the Thomas & Mack Center, as the 29-year-old Mitchell defended his crown for the sixth straight time and got his 15th consecutive victory by unanimous decision over Venezuela's third-ranked contender, Elio "Chingo" Ortiz.
In another undercard bout, Frenchman Fabrice Tiozzo (41-1, 26 KOs) defended his WBA cruiserweight title for the third time when, in the seventh round,. he stopped Chicago's Ken Murphy, who slipped to 21-2-1 with 15 KOs.
French heavyweight Josue Blocus ran his record to 9-0 with a knockout of North Carolina's Clarence Goins (4-4-1) at 2:4O of the first round.