|Thursday, August 30
Updated: August 31, 5:57 PM ET
Lewis, Rahman get physical during taping
By Darren Rovell
Lennox Lewis and heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman had their rematch almost three months early.
The two engaged in a war of words and then a pushing match at the ESPN Zone in Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday while taping "Up Close" with Gary Miller. The segment was scheduled to air next week in advance of a Nov. 17 fight that will air on TVKO, HBO's pay-per-view affiliate.
About 16 minutes into the taping -- while the two fighters were sitting side-by-side -- Lewis told Miller that Rahman crossed the line when he questioned Lewis' sexuality on an earlier radio show.
Rahman explained he was referring to Lewis' action of suing Rahman for breach of contract.
"Why are you starting with that gay stuff?" Lewis asked Rahman. "I'm 100 percent a woman's man. If he has worries about that bring your sister, bring anyone."
Rahman had wanted to fight another boxer before granting Lewis a rematch of their April 22 fight. Rahman knocked out Lewis in the fifth round of that fight. Lewis was concerned Rahman would lose his next fight, which would ruin the rematch. In June, a federal judge ruled Rahman had to fight Lewis as his first title defense.
After Lewis referenced Rahman's sister, the WBC-IBF champion responded, "Do not say nothing about my family." Lewis countered with "Be careful what you say to me."
After a few seconds of continued bantering, both fighters squared off for eight seconds of face-to-face taunting. Lewis gave the initial push and after people flooded the stage to try to break it up, Rahman had maneuvered Lewis to the interview desk, which succumbed from the weight of Lewis' body.
"What I don't understand is that a true heavyweight champion would not disrespect an opponent with unjustified taunts and jibes," Lewis said after the scuffle in a statement. "Today, Rock woke up the lion within me. Now I'm going to crush the Rock in the ring, regain my belt and bring some dignity back to the heavyweight crown."
"This is a taste of what he's going to get (in the rematch)," Rahman told Reuters. "I'm gonna put him flat on his back."
Pushing, shoving and shouting continued for at least two minutes. The crowd chanted, "Gary! Gary! Gary!," mocking the screams of "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" that have become popular during fights on "The Jerry Springer Show."
Allegedly, many of Springer's fights are fixed. But Charlie Moynihan, coordinating producer for "Up Close," said this one was not.
"In my estimation, this wasn't fixed," Moynihan said. "These two have a great disdain and dislike for each other. We've had fighters on the show before and have had no repercussions."
ESPN's Max Kellerman and Al Bernstein also believed the melee was not pre-arranged.
After the altercation, Lewis stayed around to sign autographs, shake hands and take pictures with children.
Interestingly, both Lewis and Rahman are scheduled to appear at a news conference in Las Vegas on Friday promoting their rematch, which is supposed to take place in the ring.
Darren Rovell is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.