Lennox Lewis, the former undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion, recently revealed who he believes was the most challenging opponent he faced in his career, and surprisingly, it wasn’t Mike Tyson. In fact, Lewis said that Evander Holyfield was the best fighter he ever faced.
Lewis fought Holyfield twice during his prime in the late 1990s, drawing the first match in highly controversial circumstances before winning the second. Despite winning both fights, Lewis has nothing but respect for Holyfield, who he considers to be his toughest opponent.
In a recent interview, Lewis explained his reasoning for choosing Holyfield, stating that both fighters had extensive amateur pedigrees that served them well throughout their professional careers. Holyfield began boxing at the age of eight and was an Olympic Bronze medalist in 1984. Before moving up to the heavyweight division, he cleared out the cruiserweight division to become the undisputed champion, making him one of the best in that weight class.
According to Lewis, Holyfield’s combination of amateur and professional experience made him a formidable opponent. Lewis emphasized the importance of amateur experience, comparing it to an internship for professionals. The more you learn about your craft, the better it will serve you, he said. Lewis and Holyfield’s extensive amateur experience helped them rise to the top of their game, allowing them to achieve great success in the sport of boxing.
While some may question Holyfield as the choice for Lewis’s toughest opponent, given Lewis’s setbacks against Hasim Rahman and Oliver McCall and his tough fight against Vitali Klitschko, Lewis maintains that Holyfield was the most challenging fighter he faced. Despite also having fought Mike Tyson, who was past his prime at the time, Lewis does not receive any credit for his stoppage of Tyson, which remains a controversial topic to this day.
“People seem genuinely surprised when I tell them Evander Holyfield was my toughest opponent. But when you dive into why that is, it makes a lot of sense,” said Lewis.
“Holyfield, like me, has an extensive amateur pedigree that has served him well throughout his professional career.
“He started boxing at eight and was an Olympic Bronze medalist in 1984. Before he moved up to the heavyweight division, he was a man that cleared out the cruiserweight division to become the undisputed champion. He was arguably one of the best in that weight class.
“That’s a lot of experience. It’s safe to say that he had seen it all when we met for the undisputed heavyweight championship in 1999.
“When you combine Evander’s amateur and professional experience, you would be hard-pressed not to see his success in the ring.
“I may tease him a bit on our two fights. But he knows I won both fights even tho he won’t admit it. In all seriousness, he’s the only man that has gone 24 rounds with me.
“I can’t stress the importance of amateur experience enough. Consider the amateurs as your internship into the pros. The more you learn about your craft, the better it will serve you.
“Me and Evander’s extensive amateur experience brought us to the top of our games. In a sport without guarantees, and even one mistake can end in disaster, it’s essential 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.”