Walking down Beale, the street in Memphis that claims to be the home of blues music, in the early hours of June 9, was to be floating on the humid air of the Tennessee night.
Lennox Lewis had just dismantled the ogre that was Mike Tyson, the so-called baddest man on the planet.
More than victory and the defence of his WBC and IBF titles, Lewis had demonstrated a master-class as he inflicted a humiliating, systematic beating when he knocked ‘Iron Mike’ out in the eighth round.
The city that had taken Lewis to its heart, welcoming him with a street parade, a gospel choir and the keys to Memphis 10 days before the fight, was rejoicing in the unthinkable.
American critics who had remained unconvinced about Lewis’ ability to take a punch were silenced. Those who expected a Tyson bull-rush to knock the tall visitor out of his poised stride were as stunned as the man being pinned and pummelled by Lewis’ long jab.
When it was all over Tyson showed a kind of humility never seen before. He stood with stitches around both eyes and said quietly: “Lennox was too big for me, too strong for me. I can’t beat him.”
He hugged Lewis’ mother Violet and apologised for all his utrageous pre-fight insults. He knew, everyone knew, that there could be no more arguments about who was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Every punch counted from the first bell in that Pyramid Arena, alongside the Mississippi River. His left jab was never out of Tyson’s bemused face.
Vicious uppercuts invariably followed and all the time Lewis was looking to land that hammer of a fight-winning right.
That landed most ferociously of all after two minutes and 25 seconds of the eighth round. Tyson’s legs buckled and he was down with no hope of beating referee Eddie Cotton’s count.
Tyson, who had talked gruesomely of wanting to crunch Lewis’ brain, was a broken fighter by the end of the third round. His trainer, Ronnie Shields, said afterwards that he saw defeat on Tyson’s face as he came back to his corner with blood trickling from the corner of his right eye.
Even after the second round Shield could be heard bellowing at his man: “You’ve got to be on this man’s chest. You can’t let this man jab you without throwing anything back.”
Tyson could do nothing to halt the hammering. He was powerless in the face of Lewis’ supremacy and high in the arena the travelling British supporters sang “there’s only one Lennox Lewis”.
They were singing long into the night and Lewis said in that quiet voice of his: “I wanted to complete my legacy as the best fighter on the planet. I showed boxing who is the best in the world. I can adapt to any style. Nobody gets away from my jab. It’s been a long road but I finally have what I wanted.”