Lewis, others to be inducted into Hall of Fame

CANASTOTA, N.Y. -- Three-time heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis says he's proud that enshrinement in the International Boxing Hall of Fame will secure his place in the sport's history.

"Everybody, when they start something ... always wants to leave some kind of legacy behind," said Lewis. "I've been able to accomplish that. To be put in the Hall of Fame is an accomplishment that seals my legacy. It will always be there in history. People can read about it. It gives me great pride."

Lewis headlined the 2009 induction class announced Tuesday and will enter in the modern-era category, along with 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.

Inductees were voted in by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians. The induction ceremony will be held June 14.

The 43-year-old Lewis retired in 2003 with a record of 41-2-1, including 32 KOs, and enters the hall in his first year of eligibility.

"He definitely belongs in the top six heavyweights of all-time and would have been a threat to any heavyweight champion in history because of his size, his balance and his all-around skill," said Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, a 1996 inductee. "Lennox Lewis could do whatever he had to do to win a fight. He was a very diversified heavyweight champion."

Lewis was born in England and lived there until age 12 when his family moved to Kitchener, Ontario. He first put on gloves at age 15 and quickly found success as an amateur, culminating in the junior world super heavyweight championship in 1983.

Lewis represented Canada in the 1984 Olympics but lost to Tyrell Biggs and finished fifth. In 1988, Lewis won his Olympic gold, defeating Riddick Bowe in the finals.

After turning pro in 1989, Lewis won the European, British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles to set up a match with Donovan "Razor" Ruddock for the vacant World Boxing Council title in 1992. He stopped Ruddock with a second-round TKO.

Lewis lost the title to Oliver McCall in 1994 but reclaimed it from McCall in 1997 with a fifth-round TKO. His only other pro loss was to Hasim Rahman, who KO'd Lewis for the title in 2001. Lewis seized the WBC crown for the third time by knocking out Rahman in the fourth round seven months later.

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 ever at Madison Square Garden. Lewis took a unanimous decision over Holyfield eight months later to win the WBA/IBF belts and unify the heavyweight championship.

Canizales, of Laredo, Texas, dominated the bantamweight division for six years, successfully defending the IBF championship a division-record 16 times after first winning the crown with a 15th-round TKO over Kelvin Seabrooks in 1988.

He abdicated his tile in 1994 to fight as a super bantamweight and dropped a 12-round split decision to WBA champion Wilfredo Benitez in January 1995.

Canizales retired in 1999 with a record of 50-5-1.

Mitchell is the first South African boxer to be inducted in Canastota.

He won the WBA junior lightweight title in September 1986 with a 10th-round TKO of Alfredo Layne and defended his crown 12 consecutive times before he was stripped of it in 1991. He won the IBF championship later in 1991 with a 12-round win over Tony "The Tiger" Lopez.

Mitchell finished his career 45-1-3 with 21 KOs.

Others to be inducted June 14 as non-participants are manager Billy Gibson, publicist/matchmaker Bob Goodman, New Jersey boxing commissioner Abe Greene and Japanese promoter Akihiko Honda. Journalists Paul Gallico and Hugh McIlvanney and broadcaster Larry Merchant will be enshrined as observers.