London: Lennox Lewis has given up his International Boxing Federation (IBF) title because he has no interest in a mandatory defence against number one contender Chris Byrd, the heavyweight champion said Thursday.
Britain’s Lewis, who is still the World Boxing Council (WBC) titleholder, also made it clear he intends to fight on, saying: “The world has yet to see the best of Lennox Lewis.”
Lewis, 37, said in a statement carried by the Sky Sports website: “Today I announced my decision to vacate my IBF heavyweight title.
“Prior to today, my team and I had already determined that there was no public interest in a Lennox Lewis/Chris Byrd bout.
“My decision was also based upon the fact that I believe, as I have said repeatedly, that Chris Byrd offers no competitive challenge to me.
“Accordingly, in light of a court order and an IBF ruling that would have required me to fight a meaningless fight against Chris Byrd in order to keep the IBF belt, I had no choice but to vacate.
Lewis scored a devastating eighth round knockout over Mike Tyson on June 8 to successfully defend his WBC and IBF titles.
The convincing triumph improved Lewis’ record to 40 wins (31 knockouts), two defeats and one draw, but more importantly the savagely impressive manner of the victory cemented his legacy as one of the greatest heavyweights in boxing history.
Lewis’ decision to relinquish his IBF belt paves the way for the defence of his WBC title against 26-year-old Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, holder of the lightly-regarded World Boxing Organisation (WBO) crown.
Klitschko pounded 41-year-old Ray Mercer into submission on his way to a sixth-round technical knockout win in their WBO heavyweight title fight on June 29.
With the victory, Klitschko improved to 39-1 with 36 knockouts and the 1996 Olympic gold medallist has now stopped 14 of his last 15 opponents.
Byrd is likely to face 39-year-old four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield for the vacant IBF title. Holyfield won an eighth round technical split decision over Hasim Rahman on June 2 to pound his way back into the title picture.