LENNOX LEWIS — the last great heavyweight emperor — is ready to let Tyson Fury join him at the top table.
If the undefeated WBC champ beats Dillian Whyte tonight, he will have held every belt, schooled Wladimir Klitschko, outgunned Deontay Wilder and held off the Body Snatcher.
And Lewis, who became the last undisputed heavyweight champion in 1999 when he beat Evander Holyfield, reckons that would certainly seal Fury’s place in the pantheon of British heavyweight boxing greats.
The 56-year-old legend said: “Every era brings a great fighter.
“You’ve had my era, this is a new time for a great fighter — and Fury definitely fits the bill.”
Lewis is ready for Fury to pick up his old mantle as undisputed boss if he can collect the WBA, IBF and WBO straps Oleksandr Usyk currently holds — and is set to defend against Anthony Joshua in July.
He added: “Let me tell you, everyone loves that undisputed title. I loved it — but I set the records to break.
“If somebody is going to break it, then that is what I set it for.”
Asked if Joshua should make the short trip to Wembley to watch the £31million showdown, Lewis said: “I would if I was in his position.
“Why not? This is the man you want to fight, let’s go.”
The last all-English heavyweight bout of this magnitude was Lewis’ seventh-round KO of Frank Bruno in Cardiff in 1993.
And hearing Lewis reassess the bitter rivalry they shared — that has not completely settled almost 30 years on — gives insight into what could unfold tonight.
He said: “With me and Frank it was about who were you for and most of the people were really for Frank. He was a lovely guy — everyone liked him.
“I came over from the Olympics representing Canada. Young, voracious and ready to go to battle. It was basically the old versus new.
“I wanted to say, ‘Britain get behind me’, but they were behind Frank to a certain degree.
“I said once we fought they would then be able to see who the better man was.
“At that time, Frank was their man and I was the new guy coming over.
“There were a lot of questions around me — and I answered them.
Frank Bruno fought Lennox Lewis in October 1993
Lennox Lewis beat Frank Bruno in the Battle of Britain
“I had never boxed in a stadium like that before, I do remember the roar of the crowd, it was way different to indoors.
“The weather also has an effect. I should have been warmer going out.
“My team was thinking — because they had a blanket.”
And, on the red-hot verbals they traded that still rankle with Bruno today, Lewis says: “I had the upper hand.
“They helped me because Bruno kept saying he was going to knock me back to Canada, it helped me get upset to an extent.
“I thought, ‘Don’t worry until we get in the ring’. I kind of liked being angry.
“My anger grew in the fight. Frank Bruno came out good, his jab was pumping — but he got carried away a little bit.”
And getting carried away is exactly what Lewis thinks is a major threat to Fury.
Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte face-off for the final time
When Lewis suffered a shock KO loss to huge underdog Hasim Rahman in South Africa in 2001, he had spent far too much of the build-up filming a role in Hollywood blockbuster Ocean’s Eleven — and plotting a bout against Mike Tyson.
One sickening fifth-round punch ripped up that script and delayed the Tyson fight — while Lewis got revenge seven months later.
And he says complacency remains a nasty opponent for any heavyweight champ and hot favourite.
He added: “Who can beat Tyson, at this point, after the last Deontay fight? I will tell you who: Tyson.
“If he’s not focused, too relaxed, if he puts his chin out, these are all recipes for disaster.”
Lewis retired on the back of a Vitali Klitschko victory, as the WBC champion.
Fury insists that is exactly what he will do, leaving Joshua and Usyk pining for his name on their record.
And Lewis, unlike the rest of us, believes Fury.
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He added: “For Tyson, he knows inside how good he is.
“If he doesn’t want any more fights, to prove something to himself, then it means he can retire.”
- BT Sport Box Office will show Fury v Whyte tonight from 6pm. For more information go to bt.com/sportboxoffice
Former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis