Anthony Joshua feuds with Lennox Lewis, continues embarrassing himself

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Lennox Lewis and Anthony Joshua. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

Lennox Lewis is among a small handful of the greatest heavyweight boxers who ever lived, an athletic, powerful and shrewd man who never ducked a challenge.

He conducted himself with dignity and class outside of the ring and was a fearless champion inside of it who fought nearly every elite opponent he could fight. He is not, as former IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua ridiculously called him during an interview with Sky Sports, “a clown.”

Interviewer Anna Woolhouse of Sky Sports began a question to Joshua by noting that Lewis managed to come back after each of his two career losses.

Joshua, who will face Andy Ruiz Jr. on Dec. 7 in a rematch for the heavyweight title bout Ruiz won by knockout, interrupted her to say, “Lennox is a clown. I don’t respect Lennox.”

As a reminder to Joshua, Lewis has victories over Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko, Hasim Rahman, Shannon Briggs, Mike Weaver, Francois Botha, Andrew Golota, Ray Mercer, Henry Akinwande, Oliver McCall, Frank Bruno, Tony Tucker, Razor Ruddock, Tyrell Biggs and Tommy Morrison.

Joshua fought limited opposition on his way to the title and no one remotely close to Holyfield, Tyson or Klitschko.

In addition, Joshua is embarrassing himself and his sport by agreeing to fight the rematch with Ruiz in Saudi Arabia, ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights record. It is committing atrocities in Yemen, including killing innocent civilians and children. It has murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in cold blood, luring him into the Turkish Embassy.

Promoter Eddie Hearn sloughed off Saudi Arabia’s horrible human rights record by noting that other sports entities put events there. He also said women could attend the card, though what he didn’t say was that any women who attend must be accompanied by a male.

Homosexuals face a death sentence if discovered in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua, who said in a 2018 interview with ODN that he is “100 percent” considering a career in politics after he is through boxing, hasn’t uttered a peep about events in Saudi Arabia. In the ODN interview, Joshua is charismatic and seems sincere as he speaks of helping children.

“When I’m done [boxing] and I’ve got time to invest my time in other things, I think I’ll go to areas, speak to kids, go to prisons and speak to kids and invest in some of their future to help change their lives,” Joshua said. “When you change a kid’s life, you change his mother’s, his father’s, his aunts’, his uncles’, his kids, so you can really help change the economy of a whole family. That’s what I want to do, to add to their legacy.”

Maybe he’s not aware of what Saudi Arabia is doing to civilians in Yemen, but it is horrific. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) estimated in December that 85,000 Yemeni children have died from starvation as a result of the Saudi-led war. If Joshua cares as much about children and a career in politics as he says, he would have declined the trip to Saudi Arabia.

Joshua’s comments toward Lewis are out of character, as he’s always carried himself professionally. Lewis on Twitter suggested their disagreement came as a result of his criticism of Joshua regarding talks for what would have been a unification fight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder.

Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua exchange punches during the seventh round of a heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New York. Ruiz won in the seventh round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Those are the kinds of fights Lewis sought out. Joshua hasn’t shown such an inclination. He had to be prodded before his fight with Ruiz to insist he wanted to fight Wilder, as he wouldn’t definitively say it in the past when asked directly.

Now, this isn’t for a second to suggest Joshua was or is intimidated by Wilder, because he clearly is not. But he was more worried about using leverage and getting the best end of a deal than he was about proving he is the best heavyweight in the world.

When Woolhouse responded to Joshua’s farcical comment that Lewis is a clown by noting he’d built a solid legacy, Joshua responded in a defensive and ridiculous way that showed he’s bothered by Lewis’ comments.

“Me and Lennox are not the same,” Joshua said in what could be the truest statement he ever uttered.

“My legacy is to sit back and enjoy the younger generation coming up, and not to be involved. Just to appreciate what it takes to get there. Lennox isn’t like that. Me and Lennox are cut from a different cloth.”

Lewis is a television analyst whose job is to comment on fights and on issues in the business. Nothing he has said about Joshua has been outrageously incorrect or outside the norm.

He is hardly a clown. He is a bright, intelligent and wise man who faced the best possible competition when he was active and wound up defeating every man he ever faced.

He suffered two losses in his career and avenged both. After getting knocked out by McCall in a stunning upset in 1993, Lewis came back to stop McCall in the fifth. And when Rahman knocked him out to win the heavyweight title, Lewis came back in an immediate rematch and knocked Rahman cold in the fourth.

The only other blemish on Lewis’ record was a draw against Holyfield in what was one of the worst calls in boxing history. In the rematch, Lewis won a dominant unanimous decision.

There is pressure on Joshua heading into the rematch, and that’s likely why he’s acting the way he is.

Lewis, though, surpasses him in every way and should be a role model for him, not a target of his derision.

Joshua should publicly apologize and then seek out Lewis’ counsel. He’d clearly be the better for it if he did.

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