Tuesday, September 19|
Binkowski follows in Lewis' footsteps
SYDNEY, Australia -- Canada's Artur Binkowski can
safely say he is the only Olympic boxer in Sydney to have
traded blows with Lennox Lewis and had the professional
heavyweight champion drop by with a message of support.
The Polish-born super-heavyweight has sparred with Lewis at
his U.S. training camp in the Poconos mountains on several
occasions before title fights.
He helped Lewis out before one of his clashes with Evander
Holyfield and most recently before the "homecoming" in London
against the outclassed South African Frans Botha in July.
"The first time I ever got in the ring with Lennox,
sparring-wise, I was kind of nervous," he recalled before a
training session on Monday.
"It so happened that it was media day and you had all the
reporters and all the cameras and stuff right in your
face ... second time it was different.
"I held my own, you know. I expected Lennox to come at me
and rip my head off...He did manage to give me a black eye but
it was quite an experience.
"Being down here and looking at some of my possible
opponents and comparing these guys to Lennox, they don't match
in any way.
"I was hit by the best and occasionally hit the best, I did
land some punches on Lennox."
Binkowski emerged on sufficiently good terms to get
ringside seats to watch Lewis and be assured by the champion
that he would be backing him in Sydney.
"The last day (at the training camp) he stepped by my room
and he mentioned that he was going to do his best to come to
Sydney and cheer me on," said the 25-year-old.
Having stepped into the ring with the champ, Binkowski is
now ready to step into Lewis's Olympic boots.
Lewis, although born in London, fought in two Olympics for
Canada and won the 1988 super-heavyweight gold.
He said at the Botha fight in July that he would be
attending the Games to scout for future professional talent
that he hoped to help develop.
"Lennox gave me a few tips as to what to expect and the
gameplan I should be going into the ring with," said Binkowski.
Despite the fact that the cropped Canadian is obviously
white, while the dreadlocked Lewis is far larger and definitely
black, the two have much in common.
Although Binkowski says he is much better looking -- "and
don't be afraid to say that because I am not afraid to say that
to Lennox's face" -- they share a similar fighting background.
They came to Canada from abroad and settled in Kitchener,
Ontario, where they shared the same amateur coach, Arnie Boehm,
who will also be in Sydney.
Binkowski will fight in the same weight division that Lewis
did and sees some other omens too.
"It just so happens, coincidence or whatever, that when
Lennox won the gold medal in Seoul in 1988 ... it was in the
same time zone roughly and the final here is going to be on
same day, October 1, that he won the gold," he said.
However Binkowski admits he was not always a Lewis
supporter: the first time he saw him fight was against Poland's
Andrew Golota in Atlantic City.
"At that time I believed in Golota. I had nothing against
Lennox ... but I was going to see Golota," he said.
"Lennox sent the message that he would be more than happy
to provide the ticket so that I could see how my countryman
will get destroyed.
"So I get down there and bang, bang. Game over in 95
seconds. Since that day I put all my support and belief in
Lennox because he is the true heavyweight champion."