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Anorak | Lord Of The Ring

Lord Of The Ring

by | 6th, February 2004

‘IT takes something close to a miracle, like an England cricket victory, to knock football off the back pages of the papers – but what do they do when there is no football news to report?

Lewis issues a challenge to Jonny Wilkinson

If you’re the Express, you focus on a new boot deal for Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard; if you’re the Mirror, you revisit the Luis Boa Morte-Duncan Ferguson race row; and if you’re the Mail, you inform your readers that Kevin Keegan has only got three more games in which to turn around Manchester City’s season.

If you’re the Independent, you illustrate your back page with a picture of Shota Arveladze celebrating after “setting up Michael Mols’ goal for Rangers in the CIS Insurance Cup semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden Park”.

If you’re the Times, you report the not altogether newsworthy news that Portugal is mounting the biggest security campaign in its history in preparation for the arrival of English hooligans for this summer’s European Championships.

If you’re the other broadsheet papers, you cut your losses and remember that there are other sports apart from football.

And so it is that the Telegraph leads with news that world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis will today (Friday) announce his retirement from the ring.

“Without him,” the paper says, “over the last 10 years heavyweight boxing would have been a shambles.

“He was the best of a trio of thirtysomething warriors who went on picking up big pay cheques while the sons of impoverished urban America diverted their talents away from boxing rings and into baseball, basketball and the NFL.”

In the end, though, even the $20m on offer for a rematch with Vitali ‘Dr Iron Fist’ Klitschko wasn’t enough to motivate the 38-year-old Lewis.

“Few will place him in the elite occupied by Ali or Joe Louis,” the Telegraph says, “but in the history of British sport over the last 25 years he deserves his place alongside the likes of Ian Botham, Seb Coe, Nick Faldo, Steve Redgrave and Nigel Mansell.

“If he is The Last Great Heavyweight, his final victory was to leave the ring as the champion and not drenched in his own blood.”

One name missing from the pantheon of recent British sporting heroes is Jonny Wilkinson – although one imagines it is only a matter of time before he rectifies that.

However, news in the Guardian that the World Cup-winning fly-half may miss the entire Six Nations raises concerns about his long-term future.

The paper says the 24-year-old will see a specialist today, who may well recommend surgery to clear out the scar tissue around the affected area of Wilkinson’s shoulder.

“Or,” says Steve Black, his conditioning coach at Newcastle, “it may be that he is told to continue his rehabilitation until he is ready to play again.

“That could be tomorrow, next week or in three months.”

Or even longer…’



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