Lennox Lewis, in trouble in the first two rounds, rallied to knock down Shannon Briggs three times and stopped him in the fifth round in defense of the WBC heavyweight title Saturday night.

Lewis' chin almost betrayed him in the first two rounds, but then his power came to his rescue in the fourth and fifth rounds.Lewis was a 12-1 favorite, but certainly didn't look like one in the first two rounds.

Briggs, who won a controversial decision over George Foreman last November 22, hurt Lewis with a big left hook and a barrage of punches that sent Lewis staggering across the ring in the last 30 seconds of the first round.

Briggs hurt Lewis again with a leaping left hook and a couple more head punches in the second round.

From then on, it was all Lewis until the fight was stopped at 1:45 of the fifth round.

After the fight was stopped, the doctor looked at the weary and battered Briggs, who told the physician, "I feel great, man."

"Briggs came to fight," said the 32-year old champion from Britain, who rated his own performance as being at 80 percent. "He was braver than I expected. He did a lot of talking during the week, so he had to back it up. That's why he got off the canvas three times."

Lewis now is faced with a mandatory defense against Zeljko Mavrovic of Croatia, ranked No. 1 by the WBC.