TDISH: August 30th -- Rahman and Lewis brawl on ESPN show

People nearby try to break up the scuffle. Photo courtesy of AP Photos.

August 30, 2001: During a taped interview on ESPN's Up Close, Hasim Rahman and Lennox Lewis, who had been booked to discuss their upcoming Nov. 17 heavyweight rematch, fought each other in front of a live studio audence, bringing the interview to a screeching halt as those nearby tried to pull the fighters off each other. The scuffle happened in an interesting period in sports. It, along with the Danny Almonte scandal and Barry Bonds' chase to break the single-season home run record, was one of the last mainstream sports stories before 9/11. It was also a time when boxing still had life left in it, a time when mixed martial arts posed no challenge to fans of combat sports.

Times changed. Boxing is now basically irrelevant, and little of anything is remembered that took place leading up to September 11th. For the most part, Lewis and Rahman's pre-fight fight has gone forgotten, even as it turns ten years old this year.

The interview began innocently enough. The two combatants sat side-by-side at the same roundtable, Lewis with his dreadlocks and blazer, Rahman in a white sleeveless hoodie. Gary Miller, the host, asked why there hadn't been more verbal sparring from them. Rahman even playfully handed Lewis a belt at one point.

It wasn't until 16 minutes into the taping that things at last got contentious. Miller asked Rahman why he had been questioning Lewis' sexuality during radio interviews.

"Why you starting that gay stuff?" an irritated Lewis asked. "I'm not gay. Why you calling me gay?"

"I said you were acting gay," Rahman clarified.

"I'm 100% women's man. If you're worried about that, bring your sister," Lewis said.

"Don't say anything about my family!" Rahman responded.

The two of them rose out of their chairs, taunting themselves further until Lewis shoved Rahman in the chest, leading Rahman to charge at him. They then wrestled on top of the interview table, breaking it in the process as production assistants and members of the fighters' entourage tried to restore order. Eventually the two men were separated and had to be forcefully removed. The live audience of the ESPN Zone, where the show was taped, chanted, "Gary! Gary! Gary!," referencing the "Jerry!" crowd chants that had become famous during fights on the Jerry Springer Show.

In the end, no punches were thrown and no one was hurt. The table was the lone casualty.

Many questioned if the fracas had been staged, like many notorious boxing promotions. "Well, Lennox broke my Rolex watch. And I definitely don't play like that," Rahman told ESPN's Page2. "I don't think that Lennox, on top of being knocked out in South Africa, would choose to get thrown through a Formica table. He'd never agree to that. It's ridiculous."

"What I don't understand is that a true heavyweight champion would not disrespect an opponent with unjustified taunts and jibes," Lewis would say in a statement, using enough negative clauses to confuse just about anybody. "Today, Rock woke up the lion within me. Now I'm going to crush the Rock in the ring, regain my belt and bring some dignity back to the heavyweight crown."

Lewis eventually defeated Rahman that November, exacting a bit of payback for his loss to him in April. Lewis' next bout would be against Mike Tyson.

The Rahman-Lewis scuffle took place on one of the last ever tapings of Up Close, which went off the year that October after more than 20 years on ESPN. It's time slot would later be filled by Around the Horn.

Sources:

  • Rahman, Lewis wrestle during TV interview [USA Today]
  • Lewis, Rahman get physical during taping [ESPN]
  • Rahman, Lewis take to mat [Baltimore Sun]
  • Hasim Rahman [Page2]
  • Editor's Note: There are several variations of the Rahman-Lewis verbal exchange. The first three quotes are from USA Today, while the fourth, which was not included in the USA Today's recap, came from the Associated Press.

Latest News

In This Article

Topics
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.