Precious few fighters are born with the physical gifts Michael Grant has been blessed with. 6ft 7inches, 250 pounds of lean, athletic muscle and a talented sportsman in a number of fields. Grant is undeniably a tremendous heavyweight in 2d. Further to this, he can punch too. However, for all the genetic blessings, Grant has suffered a great deal of professional misfortune. It may seem curious to regard his emergence as a heavyweight contender in a weak era as misfortune but that was very much the case, as a marketable prospect he stood, literally, head and shoulders above his contemporaries. The result, he got rushed. And he’s never recovered.
Looking back it is easy to forget that his clash with Lennox Lewis was considered a very winnable bout. The ‘Too Big’ promotion pitched the ageing, languid champion versus the dynamic young giant, ready to take up the heavyweight baton. Lewis was happy to play along, remarking at the time “I’d better fight him now before he gets any better” and electing to avoid his mandatory challenger John Ruiz, who he frequently demeaned by refering to as Johnny Louise, to tackle what he and the media believed to be the most credible challenger available.
In truth, the fight precursing the Lewis fight versus Golota highlighted weaknesses in Grant’s game and though it highlighted his willingness to fight through rough spots it alerted the more shrewd observer to his lack of seasoning for a fight with a prime Lennox Lewis. Golota quit when well ahead. The fans and media were blinded to these limitations, so desperate were they for a charismatic young heavyweight to galvanise the division. Grant, in retrospect, always had the look of a junior fighter carried along by the media. He never looked comfortable and as he entered the ring to face Lewis that crucial inner-belief simply wasn’t evident.
And so it played out, Lewis used his ring smarts and Grant’s fragility to expose the giant contender and ended his challenge in two lopsided rounds. Grant was a rabbit in the headlights when he felt world-class power. He simply wasn’t ready for the examination.
Comebacks followed, he was forced to retire with a broken ankle, suffered when he fell to the first blow Jameel McCline landed and in his last high-profile bout he was stopped by a green Dominic Guinn in 2003. He’s packed plenty of hum-drum fights inbetween but he remains a forgotten contender.
Tim Smith of the New York Daily News today writes about Grant’s latest comeback against Billy Zumbrun, a game club-fighter best remembered for giving a long-retired Riddick Bowe problems in his comeback, and tries to understand the motivation for his return from a two year hiatus.
Click here to read Tim’s article.