Experience the key for laid-back Lewis
Apr. 26, 2000
The arguments offered for picking the winner of Saturday's heavyweight title
fight basically come down to two words according to the respective fight
camps and ringsiders - experience and pressure.
There's no question that the 34-year-old Lennox Lewis, the owner of a 35-1-1
record, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council titles
and, but for a court decision, the World Boxing Association crown, has the
distinct advantage in experience over challenger Michael Grant.
Lewis and his corner take great confidence from his time on the world stage,
from his Olympic triumphs, his demolition of Canadian Donovan "Razor"
Ruddock, his slugfest with Ray Mercer and first-round destruction of Andrew
Golota to his two fights with Evander Holyfield which brought him a
highly-controversial draw in the first and a unanimous decision in the
second in November for the undisputed heavyweight championship.
"I've been up against European fighters, American fighters, Cuban fighters,"
Lewis said. "He's been up against B-class opponents, now he's up against an
It's that experience, coupled with tremendous, if often unrealized talent,
that the Lewis crowd is touting as simply too much for the 27-year-old
Grant, who by his own admission is still learning his craft.
"I've never seen Lennox so determined and he's even talking about a
knockout," says his trainer Emanuel Steward, who has been dreaming for years
that his big heavyweight would score an impressive knockout victory in a big
fight and win the hearts of boxing fans.
"I don't believe the fight will go the distance. I feel very confident
within myself," said a remarkably relaxed Lewis earlier this week.
In the Grant camp, trainer Don Turner, who worked Holyfield's corner against
Lewis, says his man has operated at only about 80 per cent of his natural
talents, which at an athletic 6-7 (2.01 m) and 250 pounds (113 kg) would be
"truly scary" if he were to use all of his ability.
Both fighters weigh about 250 pounds and the American is two inches (5 cm)
taller than Lewis.
The key to the fight according to Grant (31-0) is that "this guy don't like
pressure at all," he said after a brief workout in Madison Square Garden
"He tends to slow up in the later rounds and gets lackadaisical. I pick up
speed in the later rounds. My job is to impose my will on him and expose
him," said Grant, sitting on the edge of the ring apron and wearing a
Philadelphia 76ers shirt and a baseball-style cap, its bill carefully
rounded beneath the words "Chicago".
"You have to jump on him, you have to make him fight, you have to make this
guy fight," said Grant, who refused to predict how he would win, but said
"the 10th round has been very good to me."
That was a reference to his 10th-round stoppage of Andrew Golota last
November. Grant, carrying his hands low, had been knocked down twice in the
first round and was woefully behind on points after nine. But he knocked
down Golota in the 10th and although the inscrutable Pole did not appear to
be injured and likely would have won if he had stayed away from Grant for
the rest of the fight, he quickly got up and then quit.
At the press conference Tuesday Grant was asked to hold the microphone up,
with one reporter shouting, "yeah, keep your hands up."
Grant smiled and raised the mike. "Ha! I learned my lesson, man."
Grant acknowledges his relative inexperience, but counters with "before
experience I had patience. When I started out I was not thinking about the
championship. I was learning about the sport. It's time to prevail."
Steward maintains that when the going gets tough against Lewis, Grant does
not have the experience to instinctively fall back on and will essentially
panic. But Grant says "I rely on my instincts, my reactions. The key is
don't focus on my thinking" because that will slow him down.
Another important aspect of Saturday's fight, both corners say, is for Grant
to get inside on Lewis and Lewis to stay on the outside. For a big man Grant
is a good infighter, better than Lewis, who has shown a propensity for tying
up his opponent rather than fight inside.
Given that, it appeared strange in his two rounds of sparring Tuesday that
Grant's opponent was constantly working his way inside which is something
Lewis is not expected to do Saturday.
That's where pressure and experience enter the fray. Grant is expected to
try to pressure Lewis, forcing him to fight inside, while Lewis will attempt
to use his experience to stay on the outside.