Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman

Lennox Lewis vs. Hasim Rahman, billed as "Thunder in Africa", was a heavyweight professional boxing match contested between unified WBC, IBF, IBO, and lineal champion Lennox Lewis, and Hasim Rahman. The bout took place on 22 April 2001 in Brakpan, South Africa. Rahman, who was a 20–1 underdog, won by knockout in the fifth round. It was one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.[1][2]

"Thunder in Africa"
Lewis vs Rahman.jpg
Date22 April 2001
VenueCarnival City Casino in Brakpan, South Africa
Title(s) on the lineWBC, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles
Tale of the tape
Boxer United Kingdom Lennox Lewis United States Hasim Rahman
Nickname The Lion The Rock
Hometown London, England Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Pre-fight record 38–1–1(29 KO) 34–2 (28 KO)
Weight 253+12 lb (115 kg) 238 lb (108 kg)
Recognition WBC, IBF, and IBO heavyweight champion
Rahman wins via 5th-round KO


Following three successful title defenses in 2000, Lennox Lewis turned his sights on a potential superfight with Mike Tyson. Lewis had originally hoped to meet Tyson during the summer of 2001, however, Tyson was issued a three-month suspension early in the year after testing positive for marijuana following his 2000 fight with Andrew Golota.[3] Lewis opted to make his next defense against little-known Hasim Rahman. Lewis came into the fight as a 20–1 favorite and paid little attention to his opponent, having begun negotiations for his long-awaited match with Tyson while also being challenged to a possible unification match by WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz.[4][5] Brakpan, Gauteng, South Africa, is 5,200 feet above sea level. Rahman arrived on 27 March so he would have time to adjust to the high altitude, but Lewis didn't arrive until 10 April. Lewis trained in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is 2,000 feet above sea level. He trained in Las Vegas so he could also film scenes for a cameo appearance in the movie Ocean's Eleven. Notwithstanding the altitude challenges, the actual fight itself took place at an odd time, 05:00 (SAST) on Sunday 22 April 2001[6] in order to accommodate HBO's significant United States-based audience at a reasonable hour on Saturday 21 April 2001. After Lewis was knocked out by Rahman, HBO commentator Larry Merchant said, "He just drowned in Ocean's Eleven."

The fightEdit

The two fighters fought a close first four rounds, though Lewis was ahead on all three judges' scorecards by the score of 39–37, having won rounds two through four while Rahman was able to win the fight's opening round. By the fourth round, Rahman had become the aggressor, throwing 60 punches to Lewis' 33, though each man landed 20 and Lewis was able to narrowly win the round. In the fifth round, Lewis threw few punches, instead stalking Rahman throughout the round in an attempt to size up Rahman in order to land a knockout blow, but Rahman was able to successfully defend himself and avoided taking any power punches from Lewis. With 46 seconds remaining in the round, Rahman was able to turn the tables and used his jab to back Lewis into the ropes. Shortly after that exchange, Lewis momentarily dropped his gloves to his side, allowing Rahman to quickly land a strong right hand that dropped Lewis to the mat. Lewis was unable to get back to his feet and Rahman was announced the winner by knockout, becoming the new heavyweight champion.[7]


Following his upset victory, Rahman became an overnight sensation. Less than a month after his victory, Rahman signed a $5 million deal with influential promoter Don King.[8] Shortly before joining King's stable, cable giants HBO and Showtime entered into negotiations with Rahman in an attempt to get exclusive rights to air his fights. Showtime offered Rahman an estimated $19.25 million to sign with them and face their premier fighter Mike Tyson in the first defense of his newly won titles, while HBO offered Rahman $17 million to instead face Lewis in a rematch, but Rahman turned down both offers and instead agreed to a match with Danish fighter Brian Nielsen that would earn him an additional $5 million.[9][10] The Rahman–Nielsen fight fell through, however, and it was announced in June that Rahman would defend his titles against David Izon.[11] Lewis, however, had a rematch clause in his contract and went to court in hopes of gaining his rematch with Rahman and in June, a judge ruled in Lewis' favor, giving him the legal right to face Rahman for the titles. In August, both sides were able to reach an agreement and the rematch was announced for 17 November 2001 in Las Vegas.[12] Lewis avenged the defeat, regaining the heavyweight titles via fourth-round knockout.[13]


  1. ^ Rahman Takes Lewis's Belts In Big Upset, N.Y. Times article, 2001-04-22, Retrieved on 2013-07-16
  2. ^ "BOXING: Rahman's KO of Lewis goes toe to toe with biggest upsets". Kitsap Sun. 23 April 2001. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  3. ^ Lewis's Timetable: Tyson, Then Quit, N.Y. Times article, 2000-12-25, Retrieved on 2013-07-08
  4. ^ Tyson and Lewis Agree, But Can Pay-Per-View?, N.Y. Times article, 2001-03-09, Retrieved on 2013-07-08
  5. ^ Ruiz Wants to Fight Lewis Next. Get In Line., N.Y. Times article, 2001-03-05, Retrieved on 2013-07-08
  6. ^ Lancaster, Rob. "Thunder in Africa: Recalling Hasim Rahman's Shock Win Over Lennox Lewis". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  7. ^ Hard Rocked, Sports Illustrated article, 2001-04-30, Retrieved on 2013-07-11
  8. ^ Rahman Signs with Don King, Baltimore Sun article, 2001-05-12, Retrieved on 2013-07-11
  9. ^ Next for Rahman: Showtime vs. HBO, USA Today article, 2001-04-25, Retrieved on 2013-07-11
  10. ^ Tyson, Showtime raise stakes in effort to gain Rahman bout, Baltimore Sun article, 2001-05-05, Retrieved on 2013-07-11
  11. ^ King Signs Izon for Fight with Rahman, Court Permitting, Philadelphia Daily News article, 2001-06-01, Retrieved on 2013-07-11
  12. ^ Rahman-Lewis Rematch Official, Baltimore Sun article, 2001-08-07, Retrieved on 2013-07-11
  13. ^ Schuyler Jr., Ed (18 November 2001). "Boxing: Lewis knocks out Rahman". The Independent. Retrieved 19 June 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)