By James Blears
Fifteen years have elapsed since their extraordinary fight, which Vitali dubs, as a small piece of boxing history.
Yet the classic match against WBC Champion Lennox Lewis seems to improve with age, like a vintage port or a fine claret. The seeping hues involved were strikingly similar.
Delegates at the WBC Convention in Kiev, held their breath, as Lennox, somberly donned white boxing gloves. While Vitali pulled on black.
Then a collective and audible sigh of relief, as the pair of them, decided to swop clusters of humorous, wry, occasionally piquent and slightly barbed references referring to their battle of the Titans.
Punctuated by a hand on the shoulder tongue in cheek observations, Lennox suggested that if Vitali had made some unpleasant comment about his family, following their first fist fight, then he just might have been inflamed enough to not have hung up his gloves. But…Vitali was far too much a gentleman. Originally supposed to be fighting Kirk Johnson, until Vitali came up into the frame’ Lennox ruefully reflected: “Never take a fight on sixteen days notice!”
Vitali hotly contests that even a baseball couldn’t have knocked him down or out, that night saying: ” You know you were so lucky in that fight.” To which Lennox laconically countered: “you couldn’t finish me with one eye. You needed two.”
A wicked right cross from Lennox opened a divot of a cut on Vitali’s right eyelid in round three, which worsened. And the fight was stopped before the seventh. Vitali talked about his combos, while Lennox lauded landed right uppercuts.
Dr Paul Wallace who’s head of the WBC’s Medical Committee was the Ring Doctor that now long ago night. Wisely suggesting the gash was too severe to repair ringside. Saving a great fighter to fight on another day.
Lennox joked to Vitali: “You could have been mayor and president….but not on that night. Yet it was my hardest fight!”
Vitali replied: “with heavyweights, just one punch can change everything!”