Honestly, what do you know about Lennox Lewis?
In the world of boxing, there are few men who’s statistics stand up to Lewis’ achievements. Gold medals in both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. The undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The only man in history to beat every man whom he faced, including Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and, of course, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.
Yet I ask again: What do you really know about Lennox Lewis?
Directed by Rick Lazes and Seth Koch, the new documentary Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story is a deep dive into the career of a living sports legend. Framed around his professional relationship with another titan of the era, Mike Tyson, Lazes and Koch keep the film relatively focused on the highs and lows of Lewis’ career. Having struggled as a youth, Lewis’ story is an incredible story of a man who refused to stay down when things got hard and, wisely, Lazes and Koch highlight that strength within his character. In their conversations with Lewis, Lazes and Koch reveal some stunning revelations about the Undisputed Champ, from his ability to resist the lure of men like the controversial Don King or the fact that his in-ring career may have gotten its start from the recommendation of a police officer. (What’s more, after the year that was, it is somewhat of a breath of fresh air to hear a story about a police officer who helped change the life of a young black man for the better.)
Strangely underrated despite his incredible skill, strength and in-ring intelligence, Lewis truly should be known as one of the greatest boxers of our time. Despite not being taken as seriously as he should have been, Untold Story highlights Lewis’ tenacity and refusal to quit, despite some truly heart-wrenching losses. For instance, though he and his team were devasted by the loss to Oliver McCall, Lewis’ response was more optimistic than one would expect. Rather than stew over the loss, he argued that there’s nothing to worry about. After all, he’s going to ‘just to have to train and win the belt back again’.
In doing so, Lewis’ ability to look past temporary failure reveals a maturity and character that we rarely see in our sports heroes. (See Tyson, Mike) While it may sound cliché, these truly are the moments that define success. Lewis’ greatest strength was not his right hook but his ability to roll with the punches, so to speak. Despite achieving the highest level of global fame, Untold Story shows a man who seemed determined yet was also keenly self-aware and grounded.
At the same time, one wishes that the doc would delve a little more deeply into the soul of Lewis himself. Despite following his career extensively and featuring solid interviews with the Champ and those that knew him, Lewis still feels like a bit of an enigma as the credits roll. Touching very little on his motivations and personal life, the film focuses so much on his numerous accomplishments that Lewis’ heart for those around him rarely gets the attention that it so richly deserves. (For example, while Lewis’ support of his transgender coach showcases a refreshing empathy that we don’t normally hear from the hyper-masculine world of boxing, moments like these are sparing within the film.)
In the end, Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story does manage to pack a punch by telling the story of a man who made an impact in the sports world yet was consistently underrated by others. Fun and furious, Koch and Lazes exploration of Lewis’ career is comprehensive but never loses his humanity in the process. Even so, it is worth noting that, by the end of this Untold Story, it still feels as though there’s much that we don’t know about Lennox Lewis.
Lennox Lewis: The Untold Story is available on VOD on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021.