BoztheMadman Posted August 31, 2018 Share Posted August 31, 2018 In his heyday, he was one of the most avoided fighters in the sport. At 6'7 and with a reach of 86 inches, equally adept at boxing as well as fighting and punching, Henry Akinwande was surely a formidable fighter. However, everything changed when he faced Lennox Lewis, his main British rival at the time. What he did in that fight would mark him forever and put his career on a downward slope. He would never regain his former stature again, but he did manage to win the WBO world title before that ignominious fall from grace. This is the story of Henry Akinwande. Born of Nigerian parentage, his full name was Henry Adetokunboh Akinwande. He was born 12 October 1965 (though year 1962 is also provided in one source) in Dulwich, London. He moved to Nigeria at 4 years of age but returned to England in 1986 to start his amateur boxing career. He came to the British finals in 1986 and 1987 before winning the ABA title in 1988, on his third attempt. He also represented Britain at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul but lost in the first round on points, to Arnold Vanderlyde, a famous amateur from Netherlands. He also won the 1989 ABA title, beating Herbie Hide in the finals. He finally turned pro later that year, 4 October, just 8 days before his 24th birthday. He thus started his career rather late as a pro, but few would expect it would last 19 years. He won his first fight by KO1 and in 1991 he defeated his first esteemed opponent, JB Williamson, a former light heavyweight world title challenger, by TKO2. He also knocked out John Fury, father of Tyson, in 3 rounds later that year. He then got a crack at the European title held by the German Axel Schulz. He had to go to Germany to fight Schulz on 19 December 1992 and the fight ended as a draw, his first blemish on the record. One judge however had Akinwande ahead by 118-115 and the decision was surely controversial. He then succeeded in winning the Commonwealth title by UD12 against Jimmy Thunder. He had a rematch with Schulz 1 May 1993, again in Germany, but this time was the victor by UD12 and thus a European champion as well. He defended this title against Italian Biagio Chianese by TKO 4 and German Mario Schiesser by KO 7 before he vacated the title to challenge for a world one. He also decisioned Johnny Nelson in between, in 1994. After defeating Tony Tucker on points in 1995, he got his wish when he was matched against hard-punching sensation Jeremy Williams for the vacant WBO title, 29 June 1996 at Fantasy Springs in Indio, California. 6'1 Williams was no match for the 6'7 Nigerian-Brit nightmare Akinwande and was dominated and knocked out early in the third round with a left-right. Williams also broke his finger in round two. And thus, at the age of almost 31, Akinwande became a world champion. His first defense was against a man nearly his own size, the 6'5 Russian Alexander Zolkin, who was known as a good technician with a laser-fast jab. Zolkin was 24-2 and both his losses came to clever technicians, Tony Tubbs and Mike Hunter, in close fights. It was 9 November at the MGM Grand and Akinwande hurt Zolkin at the end of the first round, before putting him on the canvas in round four with a right hand. Zolkin got up and fought on, but had trouble landing against the tall and rangy Akinwande and was starting to take too many punches when the fight got stopped in round ten, due to a big cut on Zolkin's right eyelid. Akinwande made one more defense against fellow Brit Scott Welch and won by a shutout after 12 rounds, 11 January 1997. It was then time for the very anticipated domestic showdown against the man considered the best British and European heavyweight back then: Lennox Lewis. Lewis had just won the WBC title back against Oliver McCall, after McCall quit. This fight, Lewis' first defense, would also end under unusual circumstances. It was 12 July when the two giants faced off at Caesars Tahoe. Akinwande put Lewis down briefly with a right hand over the top in the third round but the referee ruled it as a slip. Otherwise, Akinwande seemed content to wrestle down Lewis and hug him to death, after tasting his power. This went on until the fifth round, when, after numerous warnings and a point deduction, Akinwande was disqualified for excessive holding. Thus, he not only lost his unbeaten record after 32 wins and 1 draw, his esteem as a fighter and warrior also took a blow. Also, his image as a fearsome and avoided fighter suffered. Generally, he seemed intimidated by Lewis because of his punching power and ferociousness. Despite hitting Lewis with several good, clean punches, his heart was not in the fight. He was back in action in December that year and beat Orlin Norris, once a formidable fighter and technician, but by now no longer the same guy, by UD. After winning the minor WBC Fecarbox title by TKO1 against Kenny Craven and the WBC International title by KO 2 against former Tyson-challenger Peter McNeeley, he was knocked out for the first time by Oliver McCall on 17 November 2001, at Mandalay Bay in Vegas. Akinwande was outboxing McCall with his big height and reach advantage until round 10, when he started to tire and was caught and knocked out with a mean right hand by the always dangerous McCall. His career took a further tumble after that and he would fight European-level fighters for the rest of his career. His last notable victory was over the German contender Timo Hoffmann, at 6'7 and a half even slightly taller than him, in May 2003. Akinwande won by split decision and thus took the IBF Intercontinental title. In 2006, he lost to Ukrainian rising contender Oleg Platov by SD12 and in his final fight in 2008, he lost a 6-round decision to Czech Ondrej Pala. Akinwande was by now almost 43 (or perhaps 46) and ended his career with a record of 50 wins, 30 by ko, 4 losses and 1 draw. Due to his great size and strength, Akinwande was a tough opponent for anyone and had enough power to stop anyone, but he failed the big test in his most important fight against Lewis, for which he will be remembered for mostly, perhaps unfairly since he was a quality fighter, world class at his best. Akinwande resides today in Tallahassee, Florida, where he moved while still fighting. He was also in talks to fight Evander Holyfield at some point, but he was then diagnosed with Hepatitis B and the fight fell through. Akinwande was perhaps less popular than he should have been in UK; due to the fact that he lived in Nigeria for so long and because he didn't fight so many top British fighters. But, as mentioned, many avoided him because of his great size and reach. Henry Akinwande was definitely one of the less known world champions in his time, also because he held then-lightly regarded WBO belt. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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