Boxing’s big prize goes across the pond

“British boxing’s finest hour,”

Declared The Guardian. “The best of both worlds,” proclaimed The Times. “Alone at the top of the world,” crowed The Independent. They were all celebrating the victory on Nov. 14 of Lennox Claudius Lewis, the first British- born boxer to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion since Bob Fitzsimmons beat “Gentleman Jim” Corbett 102 years ago. That 1897 fight was also staged in Nevada, at Carson City, 700 km from the ring in Las Vegas where the 34-year-old Lewis outlasted Evander Holyfield, 37, to earn the unanimous decision of the three judges. “Inger-land, Inger-land, Inger-land” screamed 6,000 rabid British fans inside the arena, echoing the chant normally used to cheer British soccer teams.

World boxing council

Trouble is, Lewis is almost as much a Canadian as he is British. He was born in London’s gritty East End but immigrated to Canada with his mother, Violet, when he was 12 and did not return to England until 1989, after he had won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in Seoul in 1988. He owns a mock-Tudor mansion in Hertfordshire and also maintains houses in Toronto and Jamaica.

Whatever his nationality, Lewis walked away with titles from the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation. “It’s a great feeling to win,” said Lewis after the bout, a rematch with Holyfield of the fight at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last March that ended in a highly controversial draw. “I couldn’t let my fans down and I couldn’t let myself down. The Americans didn’t want me to take the belts over the Atlantic to Britain, but I persevered.”

Lewis’s first title defence is almost certain to be held in Britain, probably in the new Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. And the champion left no doubt about whom he wants to battle: a once-feared, now-discredited fighter who can still draw a crowd — and add millions to the purse. “I would welcome the chance,” said Lewis, “to box Mike Tyson.”

The director who loves monsters

His movies are dark tales of strange men with wings or scissors for hands — the same images that drew him as a child. “I loved monster movies,” says Tim Burton, the director of Batman, Edward Scissorhands and the forthcoming Sleepy Hollow, which is based on Washington Irving’s classic tale of a headless horseman. “They gave me energy and that is why they keep coming up.” Burton, 41, grew up in Burbank, Calif. — where he liked to play in the local cemetery.

In his new film starring Johnny Depp, Burton is in his element, creating a creepy atmosphere by the liberal use of severed, rolling and bleeding heads. Then there is the horseman himself, Burton’s pride and joy. “The opportunity to do a character that doesn’t have a head and make him move around strongly and elegantly was an intriguing challenge,” says Burton, who used stuntmen on a mechanical horse. In the early 1980s, Burton made a short film called Frankenweenie, about a resurrected dog, which caught the eye of another offbeat artist, Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-wee Herman. In 1985, Burton made Pee-wee’s Big Adventure for $10 million; it grossed a surprising $60 million. His next three movies, Beetlejuice, Batman and Batman Returns — all profitable — cemented his position in Hollywood.

After a year of living in London, where Sleepy Hollow was filmed, Burton and his girlfriend, actress-model Lisa Marie, don’t know where to settle next. Possibly somewhere with a nice, atmospheric cemetery.