Lennox Lewis pumped his fist and millions of dollars into the future of the heavyweight division.
A classic left-right combination at 1:29 of the fourth round ended Hasim Rahman’s “15-minute” reign as heavyweight champion Saturday night at Mandalay Bay.
Lewis was a $2.50 favorite in most Las Vegas sports books to retake the WBC and IBF crowns he lost last April when knocked out by Rahman in the fifth round in South Africa.
“I’ve changed his name to Has-Been,” a satisfied Lewis said during the post-fight news conference. “I told you the punch was a lucky punch.”
The victory not only restored Lewis’ stature as one of the great fighters of his generation, but resurrected Mike Tyson’s chances of one more major pay day in his boxing future.
“I’m calling Mike Tyson out,” Lewis said when asked about a possible matchup. “Bring it on. I’m ready. The ball is in his court.”
Tyson, who lives in Las Vegas, did not attend the fight, but said later he was ready to answer the challenge.
“He said he wants me. Well, I really look forward to it,” Tyson said.
The big winner, perhaps, was Las Vegas, whose economy needed a punch after the tragic events of Sept. 11.
“You would think after a good deal of short fights and bad decisions that wagering would go down,” said John Avello, race and sports book director at Bally’s-Paris Las Vegas.
“I keep shaking my head because they keep coming back and filling this town every time there’s a big heavyweight fight,” Avello stated. “It seems like people are still hungry for a good heavyweight fight. Unfortunately, I don’t think they got it.”
As for Rahman, his stock went down about as fast as he did.
“We were a bit surprised that the late money wasn’t going toward Lewis,” said Coleen Logsdon, race and sports book manager at Mandalay Bay. “The public seems to have taken to the underdog.”
The underdog was barking throughout the week, trying to win the fight with taunts and braggadocio. The price on Rahman dropped from plus $2.30 to $1.90 in most Vegas books. Rahman then saw from the mat his big-money paydays probably end.
“I told you he was just a freshman in the game,” Lewis said of the former champ.
After a relatively even first round, Lewis started taking control of the fight with a powerful jab and boxing mastery. The 36-year-old British resident landed 50 percent of his punches (72-of-144), including 19-of-33 power throws.
The end came quickly in round four with a left hook sending Rahman off balance and into the full force of a right hand to his face.
Rahman tried to get up and but wobbled back to the canvas and was counted out by referee Joe Cortez. His record dropped to 35-3.
Lewis won every round on all three judges cards. His record improved to 39-2 with 30 knockouts.
NOTES: Jewel sang the national anthem so softly it could barely be heard in the arena”¦Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Ryan and John McEnroe drew rousing ovations, while Rosie O’Donnell was loudly booed during pre-fight celebrity intros”¦T-shirts for the fight sold for $20, but after the fight many fans bought the ones without Rahman’s picture”¦Heavyweight Oliver McCall, known for his crying episode in the middle of the ring, was KO’d in his comeback bid”¦Many of working press were seated in the upper deck, well away from ringside.