British-born boxer Lennox Lewis was sent to Canada as a young boy in the 1970s at the behest of his Jamaican-born mother, who was worried that her son would get into trouble with the law if he remained in London’s dangerous East End. He soon took up boxing and, by the age of 15, found it difficult to be matched with competitors of his age due to his large size and considerable talent in the ring. By 1983 he was the world amateur junior champion and, shortly thereafter, the Canadian super heavyweight title holder, the first of five consecutive ones that he would earn in the 1980s. He made the national Olympic team in 1984, but lost by decision in the quarter finals of the super heavyweight division to eventual gold medalist Tyrell Biggs. Four years later and after winning a silver medal in the 1987 Pan American Games, in the same category, he took home the gold medal and quickly announced his decision to turn professional, switching allegiances to his native Britain.
Lewis slowly rose through the professional ranks, earning title after title, until his defeat of Donovan Ruddock established him as one of the world’s premier heavyweights. He was declared World Boxing Council heavyweight champion in 1992 after Riddick Bowe abandoned the title, and defended it three times until he lost a bout to American Oliver McCall. He regained the belt from McCall in 1997 and held it until his surprise defeat at the hands of Hasim Rahman in 2001. Lewis regained the title from Rahman later that year and held it until his 2004 retirement from boxing. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009, made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1988, and invested as a Member of the British Empire in 1999, which was upgraded to Commander in 2002.