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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Lennox Lewis; Interview With Oral Roberts

Aired January 31, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive: world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis speaks out in primetime for the first time about his headline-grabbing fight with Mike Tyson. Will there be another faceoff soon?

Also, from Los Angeles, a rare conversation with evangelist Oral Roberts on faith, healing and his usually successful but controversial ministry. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening. We begin tonight with an exclusive interview with the heavyweight champion of the world, Lennox Lewis. He comes to us from his home town of London, England. Always great to see him.

Lennox, we all know what's been going on. First, though, right off the top, what did you make of Nevada turning down the licensing of Mike Tyson? Do you agree with that decision?

LENNOX LEWIS, WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Well, you know, I have great respect for the Nevada commission. And, you know, I know they're really extensive when they really put him up on the board. And they basically went through everything. So, you know, they're highly reputable, and, you know, I respect the decision.

KING: That was a lot of money to you, in that decision that, for the time being, is taken away.

LEWIS: Yes. I mean, you know, this is one of life's dramas that happened. It's disappointing. I'm disappointed because I definitely wanted to give Mike Tyson a whipping, but I was disappointed for a lot of fans out there that always stop me on the street and say, you know, "When are you going to get this fight together? When are we going to see this match-up?" And, you know, for now they're going to just have to wait.

KING: Now, we understand that California is now in the picture. That commission meets early next month. They'll hold it at the Staples Center. Would you like to fight him in California?

LEWIS: Well, you know, you have to ask Mike Tyson if he wants to fight me, because basically, you know, he doesn't show that he wants to fight me. He attacked at a press conference the other day and then takes a bite out of my leg. So, you know, you have to ask him if he wants to fight me. It doesn't seem like he wants to fight at the moment, so he's doing everything to stop it. But there's, you know, 20 million pounds on the table, and basically he put that at jeopardy.

KING: Well, if he does want to fight you, would California be OK to you?

LEWIS: Yes. I am willing to fight Mike Tyson. I was always willing to fight Mike Tyson.

KING: He says, and his lawyer the other day said, that he was told to come up to confront you, that it was supposed to be a staging of sorts, and that you body guard, in fact, stepped in. He could have hit the body guard. He didn't. He swung and missed, and then all hell broke loose.

What's your version of events?

LEWIS: Well, you know, that definitely wasn't supposed to happen. What was supposed to happen was we were both supposed to go on our podiums and face the crowd and put up our hands.

But as soon as I got on my podium, he basically took off his hat, threw it on the ground, marched over to us, threw a punch and started a ruckus.

KING: Where does the...

LEWIS: So you know, this...

KING: ... when did the biting occur?

LEWIS: The biting occurred when we were wrestling on the ground. You know, I was really surprised. You know, they asked me if it was Mike Tyson that bit me. And I said, "Well, usually when someone is biting you, you look down and see who is biting you," and it was Mike Tyson.

KING: Did you...


KING: ... require any kind of a shot after that?

LEWIS: Yes, I got a tetanus shot, and I was on some antibiotics.

You know, that's what I say, you know, Lennox Lewis is fighter; Mike Tyson is a biter.

KING: The other day Mike called you a coward and said you don't want to fight him. How do you react first, as the heavyweight champion, to being called a coward?

LEWIS: Well, that's impossible because, you know, I'm at the top. I take on all challengers and, you know, if you want to talk about cowards, you know, he committed a cowardly act, you know, when he started a ruckus at the press conference. And obviously, you know, the word after is that, obviously, he doesn't want this fight to happen. KING: What are your thoughts about this man, Mike Tyson, this puzzle? He's the largest draw in the game, along with you. You could not make any more money than you could make by fighting him.

How do you read him, this complex individual?

LEWIS: Well, you know, I look at it like this, you know, the heavyweight belts are made up of all different kinds of boxers. You know, you got Lennox Lewis, you got Evander Holyfield, you got Riddick Bowe, you got all different types.

And you've got Mike Tyson. And he's just a different, complex individual that makes boxing, you know, exciting to one point, gives it a black eye to another. And this is what makes this sport interesting.

KING: So you understand why he's -- "popularity" is the right word. People still want to see him fight. Do you agree?

LEWIS: Absolutely. You know, they're excited about Mike Tyson just like they're excited about a train wreck, you know. They basically want to see what's going to happen. He's basically made a living out of knocking out people. Now he's going through different antics. And, you know, they basically want to see, who's he going to bite next? What's he going to do? Who is he going to try and elbow?

So, I mean, it gives it a, kind of, dim light, but this is what creates the drama for the public that loves to watch boxing and loves Mike Tyson.

There's a lot of fans out there that love Mike Tyson and a lot of fans that love Lennox Lewis, and they just want to see them match up. And they're excited about, you know, each one of the boxers that they love.

KING: So you're saying tonight, you will fight him anywhere this fight is staged?

LEWIS: Well, you know, first of all, you have to realize that Mike Tyson needs some help. And I think, you know, he should get the proper help first before he thinks about boxing, you know, because you don't want to step into the ring and all of a sudden it turns into some kind of savage sport.

That's not what I went into boxing for. I went into boxing for the sport of it, for the sweet science. I loved Muhammad Ali. You know, he brought so much to the game.

Now, you know, if you're going against the rules and you're trying to punch somebody low, head butt, break somebody's arm, bite somebody, that just brings a different context to boxing. That's not what I went into boxing for.

KING: So since you say he has to get some help, if he doesn't, does that mean April 6 is out? LEWIS: Yes, I think right now April 6 doesn't look too good. And, you know, we're going to have to see what happens. You know, everything just happened a couple days ago, so I'm going to have to refer it to my people and see what my next step is.

KING: So are you saying, even if California were to approve this fight, you still will have to be shown that Mike seeked some helped somewhere before you'll get in the ring with him? I'm just trying to put it all together.

LEWIS: Yes. I mean, you know, I don't want to go into the ring with Mike Tyson if it's not a boxing match. If it's just a savage sport where -- you know, where he's trying to bite me, it doesn't make sense to step into the ring with him.

KING: So you're going to have to be shown that he is getting that help.

LEWIS: Yes. You know, I want to be shown that if he's coming into the ring to fight Lennox Lewis, you know, he has to stick -- you know, he has to stick to the rules and try and cheat.

KING: Don't you worry -- forgetting the biting aside -- isn't there some concern about how hard he hits? In other words, how do you approach fighting Mike Tyson?

LEWIS: Well, you know, I'm a pugilist specialist. I realize that Mike Tyson is a fighter. You know, he only knows one way. That's to come in and try and knock you out. And yes, definitely, he does have a great punch. He still can knock out people, he's still knocking out people right now.

But, you know, I'm not going to allow that to happen to me. I'm going to use all my talents, all my skill and do what comes naturally, and that's to be the greatest boxer that I know I can be.

KING: Muhammad Ali...

LEWIS: I don't believe that Mike Tyson can beat...

KING: Go ahead; I'm sorry.

LEWIS: I don't believe Mike Tyson can beat me. I think he's past his prime. He's plateaued off, and I'm the best in the world, and he wants to be where I'm at.

KING: Muhammad Ali once told me in one of many interviews he did that when he acted brave and all that and did those poems, he still worried. A smart fighter should always fear the opponent; do you agree with that?

LEWIS: I absolutely agree with that. In fact, I've learned my lesson, you know, in Hasim Rahman's first fight, where he was able to throw a terrific punch and knock me out. And, you know, I definitely learned my lesson. So I know every time I step into the ring, you know, I have to be 100 percent focused, disciplined, and realize that that person over there is trying to reach where I'm at at the moment, trying to get my glory and my crown and my belt.

KING: How much longer are you going to keep fighting, Lennox?

LEWIS: Well, I say to people, "until I'm satisfied." I'm not satisfied yet, but I'm definitely not getting any younger. So, you know, I'd say there are a couple more fights in me, and then I'll definitely call it a day and do something else.

KING: Thanks for sharing this time with us. And again, if Mike Tyson proves to you he's getting some help, you will fight him again, but you want to be sure he is getting that help.

LEWIS: Yes, definitely.

KING: Thanks so much, Lennox.

The heavyweight champion of the world, from London, England, Lennox Lewis. And the drama goes on.

And we'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE -- it's always good to have him with us and it's been a while too -- Oral Roberts, the educator, evangelist, author and businessman, the founder and chancellor of Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, founder of the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and author of the new book "Still Doing the Impossible." There you see its cover.

Oral Roberts is here with us in Los Angeles. Have we had, by the way, before we talk about the book and a lot of other things, have we had a spiritual resurgence after September 11?

ORAL ROBERTS, FAMED EVANGELIST: Without a shadow of a doubt. There's a moving of God's spirit in America that I have never seen and I've been on the scene 54 years. There's a greater faith now. We just need to turn it loose larger and greater than we're doing right now.

KING: Where were you that morning?

ROBERTS: Where was I that morning? I was watching the TV.

KING: So you saw it happen.

ROBERTS: I saw it happen from the beginning to the end.

KING: When you see something like that, do you ever doubt your faith?

ROBERTS: Not at all. I knew that America could not be shielded forever by its two oceans. I knew that somebody some way would find a way to circumvent the military. I didn't know how, but I'll have to admit I was surprised when it happened.

KING: But it didn't -- now, how do you explain that it's reenergized people to have faith when you would think a tragedy would diminish faith?

ROBERTS: No. When we see something like this happen beyond our control, we realize that we can't depend on ourselves completely. We have to depend upon god. God is our only source, our only way out.

KING: But we don't blame him?

ROBERTS: Oh, no. You blame the devil. You blame the evil that's in evil men. And there's evil in the world. President Bush brought that out. I think the number one thing I thought of that America was drifting away from recognizing evil. And now then we all know there's evil in the world.

KING: But you also believe there's sin in everybody, don't you?

ROBERTS: Well, of course we're -- David said my mother conceived me in sin.

KING: But there can be sin but not necessarily evil in people.

ROBERTS: Well, now...

KING: Are we dividing a line here?

ROBERTS: Now you're getting into theology.

KING: That's what this is about.

ROBERTS: I know that I didn't live a righteous life until I was 17. I know that. And...

KING: What changed you?

ROBERTS: The Lord, Jesus Christ...

KING: How did it happen?

ROBERTS: ... saved me. I became ill with tuberculosis with -- the disease of my mother. My mother is Cherokee Indian. And her father and mother, sister died with tuberculosis, set it on me and I was bedfast five months.

And it came to the end where the doctors told my dad it was a matter of days. I had never been religious. And when my dad came in to pray for me, he said, God, I can't afford for my son to lose his soul. So I'd heard papa pray all my life. I looked across my bed into his face. His face faded and I had a vision, I suppose, and I saw the face of my savior. It broke me up. And for the first time in my life, I heard myself asking God, save me, come in my life, spare my life. KING: You ever look back and say why you? If the Lord were there that day, why Oral Roberts?

ROBERTS: Say that in another way.

KING: Doesn't do it with everybody. People die and don't believe. People die young and don't see anything at the...

ROBERTS: Well, my sister Jewel (ph) came in the room and said, Oral, God is going to heal you. I said, is he, Jewel? She said, yes. And a man came into our area praying for the healing of people. For the first time in the history of our county, Pontotoc County, Oklahoma, my older brother got in his car, came after me and said, Oral, I'm taking you there. Get up. I said I can't get up. I couldn't even walk.

He dressed me, put me in the back seat of the car. And on the way, I heard that still small voice of God saying, son, I'm going to heal you. You're to take my healing power to your generation, someday you're to build me a university based on my authority and the Holy Spirit. And I knew that I would be healed.

KING: Do you ever ask why you, why you were chosen to heal?

ROBERTS: Well, I can't figure out God. I don't know if I'd had been God, I'd have chosen me. I think there are many people better qualified. But David says that God's ways are past finding out and I believe that. I believe God is a sovereign God.

KING: Are you Pentecostal?

ROBERTS: I am charismatic with roots of the Pentecostal.

KING: That's the same as John Ashcroft, right?

ROBERTS: But I grew up Methodist.

KING: What was the change? When you say you're...

ROBERTS: Charismatic...

KING: Means what?

ROBERTS: Charismatic is more tuned to the gifts of the spirit, the gift of the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the gift of the working of miracles, the gift of earning (ph) the spirits, the gift of tongues, the interpretations of tongues. They're more outward in their expression.

KING: Is that an extension of the Pentecostal?

ROBERTS: Oh, yes, very much so. And the Pentecostals that I grew up with are an extension of the old Methodist church.

KING: What took -- I'm doing a little history here for people who may not know because he's been a figure in television for how many years?

ROBERTS: 1954.

KING: How did you start on -- what did you do first on television? '54? You were with Milton Berle.

ROBERTS: We had the big 10,000-seat tent and only 10,000 people could get inside.

KING: Where was this?

ROBERTS: All over America.

KING: You traveled?

ROBERTS: Yes, yes.

KING: By the way, Oral Roberts is -- just turned 84 years old and still travels.

ROBERTS: Last week, I became 84 and I'm traveling ocean to ocean and border to border and I'm in good health.

KING: You look it.

ROBERTS: Thank God. And people came to me and said healing is not known very well in America, and if we could bring the cameras into your tents. So I went to NBC and they said the state of the art is not there. So I got a private company, McLean (ph) company in Chicago and they came and began to tape the great crowds and me preaching and causing the lost to be saved and laid my hands on the sick. And in one month's time, we were in the front room of millions of homes in America.

KING: Yes, you were. You caught on.

ROBERTS: Yes, it caught on beyond my wildest imaginations. And I came up with a phrase, "God is a good God." God wants you well. God wants you prosperous. God wants you a whole person.

KING: You ever wonder why he just doesn't rid us of cancer and heart disease and make it a lot easier?

ROBERTS: Well, you get into theology again. When Adam and Eve were created by God and they yielded to the devil and sinned, the curse came upon his body, upon the earth, poison, weeds came, sickness came and everybody organically is born with the seed of that in their hearts. And so it released what the devil brought into the world, sin and sickness and death and despair. We have to fight it. We have to come against it by our faith.

KING: Incredible life and times of Oral Roberts. His newest book is "Still Doing the Impossible. You are watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll of course include your phone calls. And we'll be right back with the founder of Oral Roberts University. Don't go away.


ROBERTS: Oh, God, I bring this young man from Oakland, California to thee tonight, not in my name but in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, son of the living God. Good our servants prayer and healing. Heal the lymph glands of cancer. Set him free from it, destroy the cancer. That it shall leave his body in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.




ROBERTSON: Who is he? He's a husband to the widow, a father to the orphan, to those traveling to God tonight, he's the rose of sharon. He's the lilly of the valley. Hallelujah. He's honey in the rock. Who is he? He's the son of David and the governing of our life is upon his shoulder. Who is he? is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of the living God.