Four months ago Lennox Lewis ascended to the heavyweight championship of the world, a feat no British fighter had accomplished in this century. Lewis was wearing street clothes at the time, having been handed the title after Riddick Bowe, who owned all three championship belts, threw the WBC version in a garbage can. Last Saturday night in Las Vegas, Lewis achieved a more noteworthy distinction: He became the first British subject to win a heavyweight title bout in the ring since St. Patrick's Day 1897, when Bob Fitzsimmons stopped James J. Corbett in the 14th round in Carson City, Nev. Lewis ended the drought by earning a lopsided, unanimous decision over Tony Tucker.
The meeting of these two 6'5", 235-pound counterpunchers could only have been enjoyed by a chess disciple, as each waited for the other to make the first move. Lewis, 27, tired of the dull game only twice. He knocked Tucker down in the third round and again in the ninth, but on neither occasion could he summon the firepower to finish the job.
Though Lewis remained undefeated with Saturday's win, after only 22 pro fights and 91 rounds (or partial rounds) behind him he has yet to prove his heart, chin and stamina. Lewis's biggest victory came in October, when he scored a stunning second-round knockout of Razor Ruddock, but otherwise Lewis has fought a lineup of guys named Journeyman and Tomatocan. Clearly he has some talent, but he needs more work.
Before facing Tucker, Lewis had hoped that an impressive victory would force a fight with Bowe, who has avoided him ever since he took the title from Evander Holyfield in November. "I stopped Riddick in the  Olympics," said Lewis. "He can't forget that. I think after this fight the American people will demand he fight me. Until he does, they won't give him any credibility."
Bowe, who watched the bout on pay TV in Hot Springs, Ark., where he is training for next week's defense against a warm body named Jesse Ferguson, wasn't biting. "Them two big clowns," said Bowe. "Holyfield would beat them bums hands down. Take away his one big weapon, his right hand, Lewis is pitiful. I better fight that guy before somebody else gets him."
The first somebody will be Lewis's countryman Frank Bruno, a slow, lumbering pantomimist with no particular fighting skills and a porcelain chin. After that, Lewis hopes Bowe is still talking. He would like a word with him.
The WBC champ floored Tucker twice, but his performance didn't strike any fear into Bowe.