After a week of being denied the opportunity, Memphis finally got to see reclusive heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis spar. Unfortunately, the workout was the main event at The Pyramid, the overmatched sparring partner was challenger Mike Tyson, and the ticket prices ranged from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand to see the bloodied Tyson go down flat on his back in the eighth round. Still, nobody seemed to mind. Not the 15,000 fans, thousands of whom showed up less than hour before the fight and cleared out minutes after it was over and, in between, roared their approval even when it was clear after the third round that Lewis was going to win. Not The Pyramid’s general manager Alan Freeman, who said the gross would be $16.5 million instead of the predicted $23 million, but still a record pay day. “I’m happy,” he beamed, sitting alone above the crowd waiting for Lewis to hold his news conference after midnight. And certainly not Mayor Willie Herenton, who was mainly responsible for the fight being in Memphis in the first place. “Our pride was in this,” Herenton said after the fight. “Memphis should be a major fight venue. We pulled off a major sports event in a relatively short period of time. If they have a rematch, we deserve an opportunity to host it in Memphis.” Contrary to some reports, Memphis did not embrace the fight wholeheartedly. Its banks wouldn’t put up the letters of credit for the site fee, which came from rural Dyersburg instead. Corporate leaders did not stand shoulder to shoulder with promoters, as they did in the NBA drive. There were plenty of skeptics in the local media until the saturation coverage began the week before the fight. Tunica casinos provided both impetus and lodging, and Nashville contributed promoter Brian Young. (As they waited for the Lewis press conference to begin, Young and his helpers were gathering up the ring pads and stools as souvenirs of the nice pay day they had earned.) Herenton and state Rep. Joe Towns were the politicians who stuck their necks out to get the fight and make it a success. Herenton looked like he was still working all night long. Before the fight, he strolled the concourse with a cell phone to his ear and a serious expression on his face. No tuxedo or preening in the television lights on a night when the reputation of Memphis was at stake and America is at war with terrorism. When it was over, he was still working The Pyramid like a civil servant right until he sat down next to Lewis at the press conference. They were a pair of cool customers. Lewis, who worked out at the Racquet Club, looked more like a man who had finished a couple of vigorous sets of doubles than a guy who had gone eight rounds with Iron Mike. He speaks elegantly enough to host Masterpiece Theater if he gets tired of the fight game. Alluding to the only bit of controversy in the fight -- the one-point penalty he was assessed by the referee -- he shrugged and explained, “It didn’t seem like the right thing to argue with the referee.” Doing the right thing was the order of the night. There were no incidents of violence in the crowd. Tyson fought bravely, if ineffectively, even after the seventh round when he told his trainer, “I’m done.” In defeat, he was sweet to both the champ and his mother. Lewis was gracious in victory. And with a successful week at the center of the world’s media stage, Memphis had clearly done the right thing, too. As he waited for Lewis to arrive, the mayor confided that he had won a $10 bet with one of his security people by picking Lewis. But he had, in fact, risked and won a lot more than that.

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