In a sport many view for its violence, Lennox Lewis said yesterday he wanted to be remembered for making it a "sweet science, a magical dance" as he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
"Our sport is usually looked at as a brutal, savage sport," Lennox told hundreds of fight fans gathered yesterday for the hall's 20th annual induction ceremony in Canastota, N.Y.
"I see it as a sweet science, a magical dance. For me, I just wanted to live up to that, and keep the dignity and the humanistic aspect and the positiveness of it . . . so that people will remember that's what I did for boxing," Lewis said.
Lewis was joined by a guy well known to fight fans in Philly. Former Daily News sports editor and columnist Larry Merchant, who has been an HBO boxing analyst since 1978, was also inducted. Merchant, 78, is also a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles.
A towering presence at 6-5, 250 pounds, Lewis displayed a nimbleness never before seen in a fighter his size. Lewis, 43, retired in 2003 with a record of 41-2-1, including 32 KOs, and entered the hall in his first year of eligibility.
Two of Lewis' most memorable bouts were with Evander Holyfield. The pair fought to a controversial draw in March 1999 in what was then the highest-grossing fight at Madison Square Garden. Lewis took a unanimous decision over Holyfield 8 months later to win the WBA/IBF belts and unify the heavyweight championship.
Also among the 14 inductees yesterday were American bantamweight champion Orlando Canizales and South African junior lightweight champion Brian Mitchell.
Posthumous honorees included middleweight champion William "Gorilla" Jones, welterweight champion "Mysterious" Billy Smith and middleweight champion Billy Soose in the Old-Timer Category. Nineteenth-century American heavyweight champion Tom Hyer was recognized in the Pioneer Category.
Canizales, of Laredo, Texas, dominated the bantamweight division for 6 years, successfully defending the IBF championship a division-record 16 times after first winning the crown in 1988.
Mitchell was the first South African boxer to be enshrined in Canastota. He finished his career 45-1-3 with 21 KOs.
Also inducted as nonparticipants were manager Billy Gibson, publicist/matchmaker Bob Goodman, New Jersey boxing commissioner Abe Greene and Japanese promoter Akihiko Honda. Journalists Paul Gallico and Hugh McIlvanney were enshrined as observers. *