Happy New Year 2021! Let’s try our best to put bittersweet 2020 behind us and start the year with a sweeter science! When it comes to profession boxers, Lennox Lewis with a stellar record of 41 wins, (32 by knockout) is among the greatest champions to ever live. Beginning his professional career in 1989, Lennox has gone toe-to-toe with some of the heaviest hitters on the planet, suffering only two defeats in the ring and even besting Mike Tyson in a right royal rumble.
Of course, all of that is what the headlines tell you, but there’s much more to the life of Lennox Lewis. The recently released documentary “Lennox: The Untold Story” pulls back the curtain to show Lennox’s incredible rise to the top of the boxing world, narrated by Dr. Dre. For any fan of professional fighting or documentaries, “Lennox: The Untold Story” is certainly one to get engaged with.
Today, Lennox sits down for a KFK exclusive to share insights on his illustrious career, his personal narrative behind the making of “Lennox: The Untold Story”, along with a look at his training methods during his competitive days, the love of martial arts films that his mother instilled in him, and much more!
Greetings Lennox, welcome to Kung Fu Kingdom!
It’s great to connect with you and we hope you’re keeping well during the coronavirus lockdown?
Hi Brad, thanks for having me. You know, holding up and just adjusting like everybody else.
Adjusting has been the operative word for everybody this past year. May we get your views briefly on what you think of the name Kung Fu Kingdom (or KFK for short)?
Well, when I first saw Kung Fu Kingdom, I thought of myself, because my mom had hundreds of kung fu movies on DVD. And even before my fight, I’d watch kung fu movies to get me into the mindset, and my mindset was “If somebody beats you, you’re not training hard enough.” You go back and your train harder, and then you come back and beat them!
Muhammad Ali: Lennox Lewis’ Ultimate Boxing Hero
Absolutely! So let’s start with, who has been your biggest inspiration, hero or mentor on your boxing journey?
Muhammad Ali. He was my guide where I wanted to say, “He’s the greatest, I want to be just as great as him”. I started boxing because of that. and even my style of boxing was Muhammad Ali’s.
On His Newly Released Film: “Lennox: The Untold Story”
Well, the Ali ideal worked! So tell us about your new documentary “Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story”. How did it first come about?
As far as the documentary, it was important because he [Ali] had a couple of documentaries about him, and one that took ten years to bring out. So, I thought if it’s taking long for mine, that’s okay. It gives you a brief overview of my whole life, where I’m from, how I grew up, my boxing life, and what I achieved.
And on that topic, your famed fight with “Iron” Mike Tyson is a big part of the film. Looking back at that event, what insights or fond reflections do you have from that time?
On Meeting, Sparring & Hanging Out with Mike Tyson
Well, Mike Tyson’s journey to that fight was known but not mine, and my journey from that time is covered in the documentary.
We met when we were 15 years-old when I was in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. I won the tournament over there, and they said I hadn’t boxed the best guy, and that Mike Tyson was that best guy.
So at that time, me and my trainer, Arnie Boehm met Mike Tyson. We spent four days there and sparred with him for a couple of days. He also took me to his room to show me great fight tapes of different fighters I’d never seen before.
He was more into boxing historically at that time than I was. So, that was the first time me and Tyson ever met. It just shows the journey we all go through, I went one way, he went another, and his life has been told about. This documentary really shows an overview of my entire life from where I started to where I ended up.
On His Toughest Opponents
So, obviously Mike Tyson was a tremendous fighter to face in the ring, but who else would you say were among the toughest opponents of your career?
I look at my life as one big journey. Some of my big fights include those with Frank Bruno, Gary Mason and Evander Holyfield. All these different guys were just like great math problems which I had to solve.
Oliver McCall was a tough opponent because he was the first man to beat me, and he beat me because he had great reaction, and he threw a great punch which my chin just happened to be in the way of. (Both laugh)
What are your thoughts on MMA briefly?
I watch MMA and there are a lot of different guys out there that I love. I just love great fights!
Dovetailing off that, what is the biggest thing you hope people will take away from “The Untold Story” – and how does that tie-in to the legacy you wish to leave?
I hope they take away a lot, because there is a lot. Just how I am as a person, as an athlete, and different things that I’ve gone through and how I’ve dealt with them. I think that shows I’m a true champion in my approach, and it also gives people a chance to look at things in my life that they didn’t know about before.
More of Lennox on Film…
Likewise! Speaking of boxing and films, Tyson, starred opposite Donnie Yen in the movie “Ip Man 3”. The Casino heist film, “Oceans Eleven” (in which you featured) aside, do you see yourself doing something similar in the future?
Oh absolutely, I’d make a great movie star! I don’t know if I want to be a hero or a villain, it’s 50-50!
Maybe in the next “Ip Man” reboot! So, what would you say is the biggest life lesson you’ve taken from your boxing career overall?
Lennox Lewis’ Greatest Life Lessons
That there will definitely be ups and downs, and as far as the downs are concerned, it’s really how you deal with them that show your true character. I think that’s the basic one. You have to work hard to get what you want, and anything is possible, as long as you realize the sacrifices involved.
That’s the sweet science of life. What was the proudest moment of your career? How does having an Olympic Gold medal placed around your neck compare to hearing “…and New World Heavyweight Champion…”?
I think being able to accomplish something that you’ve dreamt about that people said you could never do, I think that’s a great accomplishment. To realize, yes, you can do it if you sacrifice and do the right things, it’s truly possible. To achieve them, then to say, “I’ve achieved these goals, now I set new goals for myself.”
Lennox & His Love for Martial Arts Movies
We think the film really captured all of that. On a tangential note, one of our journalist’s girlfriends once served you in Blockbusters in Cockfosters, North London, when you rented some Jackie Chan films that you said were for your mum! Who is the bigger Jackie Chan fan? Lennox or Violet?
Oh, my mother! She loves martial arts, and I was always thinking “Why’s she watching so much?”, but I guess it came out in me!
That’s so cool to know! So what would you say are a couple of your favourite martial arts films?
Boxing Clever: It’s a Mental Game of Chess
Great ones! Moving ahead now, you’re an avid chess player and you were an intelligent, tactful fighter. Do you think that sort of mental training helped with your quick-thinking ability in the ring?
Absolutely. It’s a mental war, so mentally, you have to be prepared, and what chess teaches you is to make sure you cover yourself. Make sure you have your defense, because if your defense is not up, somebody’s going to catch your Queen, so always keep your hands up.
…and Lennox’s Fantasy Opponent is…?
In the film, your trainer the historic Emanuel “Manny” Steward says you could have beaten all of the great heavyweights. Who is your fantasy opponent, if you could choose anyone in boxing history?
Oh, it would have to be Jack Johnson. Jack Johnson was a remarkable heavyweight, he had such confidence and such poise – he really believed in himself, and he was a showman and a showboat.
Training, Recovery & Lifestyle
Looking at training now, at the height of your career, how did a typical training workout shape up for you – can you walk us through?
Oh, it’s easy. I would run 10 miles in the morning, come back, swim maybe 200 yards, then work on some weights. Then, I would probably wake up and take a shower! (Both laugh)
Sounds like a winning formula. What did you enjoy most about training? How long did it take for you to recover from a full fight, and what methods worked best for you?
Usually, after a fight, people will take a long rest. After some of the old-time fights, the boxers used to go to the hospital because they used to be so beat up. For me, I used to go on vacation, that was my calm down, I used to go to Jamaica all the time.
It seems Jamaica is a destination a lot of people are thinking about after the pandemic is over.
Yeah, vitamin D is important!
Did you give any special attention to your nutrition – what are your best ‘go to’ foods that give you the most energy?
Angelo Dundee [trainer and cornerman known for his work with Muhammad Ali] said to me “What are you eating”, and I said “My mom’s cooking”, which was some chicken and Jamaican food. Then he said “Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” (Both laugh)
Fun & Leisure
What’s one geeky or interesting thing that people don’t know about you?
That I love palm trees! (Both laugh) I got into palm trees when I was decorating my house, and my wife was decorating the inside, so I decided to decorate the outside. So this got me knowing all about these different royal palms and different palm trees that I didn’t know I loved. I figured out their names and got them, and now I have them.
Never heard that one before! So, if you could have a superpower what would you most like to have?
Probably invisibility, or teleporting.
Many accomplished and renowned champion fighters wish to inspire, encourage and teach the current and next generation of fighters – what would you like to be most remembered for?
Just for conducting myself as a great champion, never ducking anybody as I fought everyone.
Lennox’s Warrior Wisdom
Great legacy to have. What are some warrior-wisdom quotes or philosophies that have especially helped you become who you are today?
“The better I prepare, the less I worry”, and you can’t get anywhere without sweat. In life, you’ve got to sweat before you get somewhere, and you’ve got to work at anything in order to get good at it.
Lennox Lewis’ Message to Kung-Fu Kingdom Followers & Fans
Definitely. Well, as we sign off here, what special message would Lennox Lewis like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom followers and your fans around the world right now?
I’m a kung fu advocate! I love martial arts, and Bruce Lee was my mental sensei. I’m a peaceful warrior, I’m a true lion of the jungle.
Kung fu advocate, just like us! Thank you Lennox, it’s been a genuine pleasure to interview one of our heavyweight boxing heroes and we wish you all the best of success with your “Untold Story” film and upcoming projects in 2021!
Thank you, happy to speak with Kung Fu Kingdom.