|This was a battle between two undefeated British heavyweights. Lennox Lewis was 14-0 with 13 KO’s having defeated Jean Maurice Chanet in six rounds in his last fight. Mason was the British champion for the last two years and had an impressive 35-0 record with 32 KOS.|
The bout was seen by many in the UK as a passport to the world stage as both men at the time featured prominently in the WBC rankings. Whilst the big four, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Razor Ruddock and George Foreman were battling it out for either world honors or a chance at world honors, this fight saw an opportunity for either Mason or Lewis to be the next in line once the big four had sorted out their issues. Prior to the bout Mason was ranked number five by the WBC and Lewis was just on the outside of the top ten ranking at eleven, so this was an important one for both men. Mason, who had for so long lived in the shadow of good friend Frank Bruno was having his second fight since an eye injury the previous year threatened his career. He was also considerably lighter for this one, weighing in at 235-pounds. Lewis scaled in at 227- pounds. Mason emerged as the pre-fight favorite.
The fight was held at Wembley Arena, London the same venue where twenty years earlier, Joe Bugner controversially won a fifteen-round verdict over British hero Henry Cooper to end his career. The referee was Larry O’Connell. In the first round, Lewis appeared to be the more relaxed of the two, boxing behind his long left jab. Mason, who was having his most important professional fight, appeared to be uptight and was easily caught by Lewis’s jabs and uppercuts. Mason appeared to be loading up on shots but did have some success, landing some thumping blows, but he began to mark up as early as the second round.
Mason’s right eye began to close in the third round whilst Lewis was landing sharp, cutting, stinging blows, but alarmingly, Lewis was already beginning to breathe heavily and was looking ragged. The European champion regained his composure in the fourth and fifth rounds, boxing effectively and ripping Mason with uppercuts as the British champion tried to force his way in. At the close of the fifth round, referee Larry O’Connell had a look in Mason’s corner as his eye damage began to worsen.
Mason now began to have the look of a weary and desperate fighter and knew that time was against him, and the urgency only played into Lewis’s hands. Every time Mason forced the action, Lewis would stop him in his tracks and by the end of the sixth round, Mason sustained damage to both of his eyes. The end came at forty-four seconds of the seventh. Lewis landed a piercing left hand that landed on Mason’s eye and you could almost see the fight drain from him. Gary bravely tried one last assault by wading into Lewis, but it was to no avail. The referee had seen enough.
Lewis’s record had improved to 15-0 and he was now the British and European champion. Mason’s career in the top-flight was virtually over due to further eye damage, although he would pop up three years later with a couple of wins Stateside. Lewis finished the year with wins over Mike Weaver, Glenn McCrory and Tyrell Biggs. The following year, Lewis would add the Commonwealth title to his resume, stopping Derek Williams in three rounds.
Whilst Lewis’s victory over Mason probably didn’t cause any tremors stateside, it was certainly a significant one. Lewis was ready to take the next step and after dominating the domestic scene, the chance to challenge for world honors would be just round the corner.
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