MEMPHIS SPORTS SCENE 

It's time for Lennox Lewis to step up (to the mike, that is).

LENNOX LEWIS' MEDIA NO-SHOW Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. No, really, I mean it. Why pay attention to the debacle of the upcoming Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson fight? Has there ever been such a hyped-up affair involving two more insignificant players? Maybe the last presidential election (or maybe Bush-Dukakis), but even those had some import, considering there was something at stake. Let’s face it, boxing long ago became more about the personalities of the fighters in the ring, rather than about who has a better upper-cut. The guys on ESPN or HBO might still think there is something to training and desire, but the rest of us just want to see colorful peacocks strutting and stutter-stepping, blustering and bleeding. But no. I had to ignore all of these ideas. I had to think, oh why not? This fight might be one of the most important in Memphis sports history. Cover the dang fight like a good reporter. I don’t have too much time at the Flyer, so why not go out with a bang? So, I join in this national conference call featuring one Lennox Lewis. He was supposed to have been involved in a media-only exchange, much like what Tyson offered in person in Maui, of all places. But when I got to the line, a Lewis representative tells us that there is no call, that Lewis is “completely focused” on his upcoming match, and that Lewis doesn’t want to talk with the press. “I’m sorry I can’t join the media at the conference call. I look forward to meeting the media in Memphis,” Lewis told the rep to say, and so the rep did say, and the disgusted sports news people placed their phone back on their respective hooks and en masse scrambled to find new material for tomorrow’s columns. On the one hand, I understand Lewis’ reluctance to talk with media. I personally hate talking to the media as well. But on the other hand, boxing is not just about getting in the ring, and beating the crap out of someone else. The fans have to care about the fighters. Could you throw any old schmo’ in the ring with Apollo Creed and get Rocky? No, you needed the antithesis of Creed, the hard hitter compared to Creed’s style. You need the working-class Joe compared to the millionaire Creed. Hell, you needed blue-collar Philadelphia against the glitz of Creed’s L.A. In short, Creed needed a Rocky Balboa to make a movie. Rocky might have been a punching bag, but the crowd loved that damn punching bag. Until he made Rocky III and up, but I digress. Lewis-Tyson has that sort of polar-opposite appeal. Tyson’s antics and explosive fighting style clashes nicely with Lewis’ demeanor and caution in the ring. But that only matters if the crowd can see that Lewis is more than just a dignified Brit defending his title. The fans have to see that Lewis is more than his quiet nature. Lewis will not have another press conference until he gets to Memphis. That’s only a little ways off, and Lewis has had other media availability, but why waste this opportunity to make a fool of himself like Tyson does on every occasion? Better yet, why not use the time to show a champion’s class, for which the boxing world has starved? That’s why I wonder why I do bother. Lewis could have at least said something cool about how mad he was at Tyson, or how he was going to stomp the guy’s testicles. Instead, he remained silent. Let me ask you this, was Muhammad Ali known for his work in the ring, or his words outside the ring? I think it’s a combination of both, and Lewis has once again -- just by not saying a thing -- shown why he is a mediocre champion. I mean, really. Do we care about fighters who can fight? Sure it’s nice to watch some skills, but the fun part is to listen to these overpaid warriors rant and rave at each other, and then for the bastard to be put into his place by the shining knight victorious again. (disclaimer: Tyson might or might not be a bastard, but I’m not necessarily saying that Lewis is a knight.) Tyson at least is answering that call of institutional buffoonery that has been boxing’s trademark for the last half century. So why bother? If only half this pair care about putting on a show, who needs the aggravation? Not this reporter, though the words sure did fill up a desperately-needed column space left vacant by a silent champion. In the end, Lewis’ gloves might decide the match, but his silence has already secured his place in history.

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