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LEWIS I've been to hell and the waiting is over.

Lennox Lewis will choose this city of broken dreams to smash home his message to the world tonight: "Nothing can break me!"

"Defeat is unthinkable," roars Britain's greatest ever heavyweight.

"I've spent too many sleepless nights, I've waited too long and I've worked too darned hard to let it all slip from me now.

"In my mind I've been to hell and back over the past two and a half years. I've waited and wondered if I would ever get the chance to win back my world title. It would have been easy to walk away from the frustrations, to lie on a beach and let the rest of them all get on with it.

"There were times when I was truly tempted as all the political manoeuvres of Don King kept me in the wilderness.

"But how could I do that? It would have been giving in to King. And that would have been too hard to live with.

"It was that picture of him in my mind which kept me going. I'm fighting Oliver McCall for the WBC title but every punch I throw will make Don King wince."

Talk may be cheap but it is the cold-eyed conviction of the cockney who moved to Canada to launch his fighting career which convinces me that the day of atonement is at hand. There is a meanness about those normally smiling eyes.

Lewis's face cracked into a half smile but the eyes did not alter. "I don't show my emotions but I'm like a volcano ready to erupt," he told me later.

Not that Lennox is taking anything for granted. Far from it. He ruefully recalls the dramatic two-round defeat inflicted on him by the man from Chicago back in September, 1994, the night his world fell apart.

"I got careless, I listened to Pepe Correa (his trainer at the time) shouting to me to knock him out - and I paid for it," he says.

That memory will also stir the adrenaline of McCall, who needs all the confidence he can muster after the nightmare of 1996, when drugs and booze dragged him into the gutter.

"When you know you have knocked a guy out before it gives you an edge," warns America's most respected trainer Eddie Futch.

"McCall will also be high on emotion, and that makes him dangerous.

"I would advise Lennox to stay cool in the early rounds and let the McCall hurricane blow itself out. Then he can step up the tempo, ping that jab into McCall's face - and break his spirit."

When Futch's scenario agrees with mine it gives me all the more confidence to predict a victory for Lewis around the ninth round.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Gorman, Ken
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 7, 1997
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