LAS VEGAS -- Lennox Lewis kept his anger bottled up until it exploded with a tremendous right-hand punch that made him heavyweight champion again.
That fury came out with a crashing blow that knocked out Hasim Rahman in the fourth round Saturday night -- one that was even better than the right hand Rahman used to knock out Lewis in the fifth round to win the title April 22.
''He showed a lot of disrespect, but I've been keeping it all inside,'' said Lewis, who was angered by Rahman's insinuations about his sexuality.
The right hand, set up by a short left hook, dropped Rahman flat on his back. He struggled up at the count of nine, but then fell to the canvas. Referee Joe Cortez signaled the fight was over at 1:29 of the round.
''He hit me with a good shot and I couldn't recover,'' the 29-year-old Rahman said. ''I'm no quitter, and getting knocked out is something that happens in boxing.''
While Rahman's instincts were to get up, his legs never got the message.
Lewis, however, did a victory dance in the ring at Mandalay Bay and pounded his chest as he became the fourth fighter to regain the title from the man who beat him. The other three were Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield.
Lewis couldn't resist gloating and shouted that Rahman should change his name from Hasim to ''Has Been.''
''I told you he was just a freshman in the game,'' said Lewis, who engaged in a battle of jabs in the first two rounds and then took control in the fourth.
The victory set up a potential major money match for Lewis against Mike Tyson. A Tyson fight against Ray Mercer on Jan. 19, possibly in Atlantic City, N.J., has been talked about.
''I congratulate Lennox Lewis for recapturing the heavyweight championship,'' Tyson said from Phoenix. ''He said he wants me. Well, I really look forward to it.
''It will be the biggest fight in boxing. Start counting the days, Lennox, because I promise you they are numbered,'' Tyson said.
The stunning ending preserved the 36-year-old Lewis' career. He had said if he couldn't beat Rahman, there was no sense in continuing to fight.
Lewis had to go to court to have Rahman give him an immediate rematch, and that provoked Rahman.
Many boxing observers thought Lewis might play it cautiously -- the way he has in past fights -- and try to jab his way to victory.
Lewis, looking much trimmer than he did when he lost the title to Rahman in South Africa, had more than just victory on his mind.
He was thinking revenge and began throwing his right at the outset. It didn't start taking effect until the third round, although he cut Rahman over the left eye in the first.
''I definitely wasn't gun shy,'' Lewis said. ''I got him in the fourth round, so I'm one up on him.''
According to a CompuBox punch analysis, Lewis landed 72 of 144 punches thrown and Rahman got home with 48 of 105.
All three judges gave Lewis the first three rounds. The AP gave Lewis two of the first three.
The 6-foot-5 Lewis, who weighed 246 1/2 pounds -- 6 1/2 pounds under his career-high weight in the first fight -- looked relaxed and confident from the start.
Rahman, 236 pounds, landed several good jabs in the first two rounds, but never got in a punch that rattled Lewis.
Lewis, of Britain, was a 5-2 favorite and he looked every bit of it. As the fight progressed, it was the champion who became tentative.
Lewis signaled the end might be in sight when he shook Rahman with a big right hand 20 seconds into the fourth round. Of the knockout sequence, Rahman said the left hook blinded him, and he never saw the right hook coming.
Rahman, of Abingdon, Md., lost for the third time -- all by knockout -- against 35 wins. He has 29 knockouts.
Lewis is now 39-2-1 with 30 knockouts. His record in championship fights is 13-2-1 with eight knockouts.
Each fighter made a minimum of $10 million for the pay-per-view match. Lewis will make much more than that should he fight Tyson.
A couple of days before the fight, Rahman had said: ''I feel a knockout.''
The only thing he felt Saturday night before 10,500 fans was a knockout punch from Lewis.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.