Large Len is proving he has a big heart.
World heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis has been criticized in print for not having a killer instinct in the ring and for pledging allegiance to whatever flag happens to be flapping over his head at the moment.
But there's no denying that the London-born, Kitchener-raised boxer, who is of Jamaican descent, is worth his weight in gold as a puglistic philanthropist.
Lewis, 34, is known for the charity work he performs in London, his home base, and for the acts of kindness he has displayed in Canada, including his quietly purchasing a $28,000, fully equipped Pontiac minivan two years ago for Armand Teodorescu, the son of his former amateur trainer, Adrian Teodorescu, who has a gym in Toronto.
A few weeks ago, before his world title defence against Francois Botha of South Africa, Lewis arranged for Canadian amateur super-heavyweight champion Artur Binkowski to attend his training camp in Pennsylvania's Poconos, affording the Olympic-bound boxer the chance to work out with the best.
"It was a great experience," Binkowski said yesterday. "He's a very generous guy."
Binkowski, 25, said the chance to train and spar with Lewis and the assortment of veteran professionals who act as Lewis' sparring partners, proved to be an invaluable experience heading into the Olympics.
"(It helped) more from a confidence-building point of view than anything else," said Binkowski, who, like many Olympic-bound Canadian athletes, has trouble making ends meet. "I held my own against those guys, even Lennox. I figure if I can slip a jab thrown by Lennox Lewis, I'm on the right track. I feel really good now."
Lewis financed the trip for Binkowski and his coach, Arnie Boehm, who coached Lewis as an amateur. The 1988 Olympic super-heavyweight gold medallist for Canada then flew Binkowski and Boehn to London for Lewis' fight Saturday against Botha, paying for the flight, hotels and all of the expenses.
"I used to be an Andrew Golota fan, but not anymore," Binkowski said. I'm a Lewis guy now."