LAS VEGAS -- For Lennox Lewis, it doesn't get any better than being the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

He earned that distinction Saturday night with a unanimous decision over Evander Holyfield, eight months after he thought he had beaten him but had to settle for a highly controversial draw.Lewis, however, left the ring with only the WBC and WBA championship belts. The IBF withheld its belt because of a sanctioning fee dispute.

Whatever the outcome, Holyfield put things in perspective.

"It's not so much what I think, it's what reality is," he said.

"And what reality is, is he's the heavyweight champion of the world."

Panos Eliades, the main promoter of the champion from Britain, said Lewis might turn his back on the beleaguered IBF.

"Lennox Lewis is the undisputed heavyweight champion and when we go home we'll decide what to do with the IBF belt," Eliades said. "The way the IBF acted tonight was disgraceful."

IBF president Bob Lee told The Associated Press by telephone on Sunday that Lewis would get the belt if a $300,000 sanctioning fee is paid to the IBF by Friday.

Pat English, a lawyer for Main Events, Lewis' American promoter, said he met with IBF lawyer Walter Stone the afternoon of the fight and they had reached an agreement and a $300,000 was check cut.

However, English said that just before the start of the fight, Stone told him he received a call from "somebody on high," and he could not accept the check.

Lee said Lewis' camp "tried to get in the money into an escrow account" and English "cut a check to his own escrow account." After he conferred with Stone, Lee said, he told Stone not to accept the agreement.

Asked why he thought an attempt was made to put the money into escrow, Lee said, "Maybe because of the indictment."

Lee has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of soliciting and accepting bribes to fix ranking and was to arraigned Monday in Newark, N.J.

While the IBF will accept $300,000, Lee said the actual sanctioning fee was $450,000, 3 percent of Lewis' $15 million purse.

While the decision was unanimous, Lewis was not as dominant as he had been in the first fight March 13 at Madison Square Garden.

"It was little tougher than the first fight," Lewis said. "I was thinking I've got to go home with all the belts. I went through some trials and tribulations. A lot of Americans didn't want me to take the belts across the Atlantic. I actually persevered and succeeded."

Lewis was credited with landing 195 of 490 punches in the Thomas & Mack Center compared with 348 of 613 in the first fight. Holyfield's figures were 137 of 416 Saturday night compared with 134 of 385 in the first fight.

Holyfield's future is uncertain, but there could be a lucrative third match with Mike Tyson.