After becoming the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion in 1999, Lennox Lewis successfully defended his crown twice in easy second round knockout victories over Michael Grant and Francois Botha. Following his victory over Botha, Lewis quickly set his sights on mandatory challenger David Tua, who was ranked number one by both the WBC and IBF. Though Lewis had hoped to have the bout in his boyhood home of Toronto, Canada, it was ultimately switched to the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Paradise, Nevada. Tua came into the fight sporting an impressive 37–1 record, with victories over future Heavyweight champions John Ruiz, Oleg Maskaev and Hasim Rahman and his only loss coming against undefeated prospect Ike Ibeabuchi by unanimous decision. Though he came into the fight as a 3–1 underdog, Tua was confident he could defeat Lewis, calling him a "lazy fighter" while also stating "He tends to get tired after two or three rounds. "He gets vulnerable. His chin is very suspect. The only way to win is to knock Lennox Lewis out." Tua had defeated top-contender Gary Bell (boxer) in 1999 by a contoversial stoppage. That effort was followed by beating Obed Sullivan at a weight of 255 pounds.
Unlike Lewis' previous two fights which did not make it past the second round, this fight went the full 12 rounds.
The bout would prove to be the only major championship fight of Tua's career.