“These are two Goliath’s. Its Goliath versus Goliath. No slingshots. Just big boulders being thrown by both of them.”
On April 29, Larry Merchant, seated alongside Jim Lampley and George Foreman, was preparing to call the opening moments of a Heavyweight championship battle between the 6’7”, 250 pound Michael Grant and the 6’5”, 247 pound Lennox Lewis.
The bout was billed as “Two Big” with fight posters and programs professing that the two fighters combined for “13 Feet and 500 Pounds of Fight”.
Eat your heart out Primo Carnera and George Foreman.
The year was 2000.
Just five months before in November, the warhorse and veteran Lewis (35-1-1, 27 KOs) defeated Evander Holyfield to become the first undisputed Heavyweight champion since Riddick Bowe in 1992. After a shocking loss to Oliver McCall, Lewis had regained his form and battered opponents, including McCall in a bizarre rematch.
Lewis was universally recognized as the man who beat the man who beat the man.
The undefeated Grant (31-0, 22 KOs) was a rising star. Having reeled off 31 straight wins, he had slowly increased the level of competition he faced, dispatching the likes of David Izon, Lou Savarese, and Andrew Golota.
Over 17,000 fans crowded into the historic Madison Square Garden with HBO’s Pay-Per-View arm, TVKO, airing the bout live for millions around the globe.
Ring announcer Michael Buffer introduced referee Arthur Mercante Jr. and then the big men who were now on center stage.
Round 1 was shot out of a cannon as Grant charged at Lewis, clocking him with a right hand and a left hook. Lewis immediately retreated to the ropes while the crowd in The Garden had yet to sit down. Lampley wailed, “Early thunder from Grant! And he lands a big right hand!”
Lewis initially looked shaken, held on, then began to move and pop his long left jab. As his head cleared, he circled Grant who was still looking to put more leather on the Lewis chin.
The early action was intense. After the first 60 seconds, both men began to settle in behind telephone pole jabs while looking to pot shot their opponent with heavy artillery in the form of right hands and left hooks.
As Mercante Jr. broke the two fighters from a clinch, Merchant saw blood. “There’s already a little blood coming from the mouth of Lewis.”
The brief moment of settling in that was accompanied with jabs and side-to-side movement didn’t last long. With just 90 seconds having elapsed, Lewis unloaded a vicious right uppercut and quickly followed it up with an overhand right that found a home on Grant’s chin. The big man went crashing to the canvas.
Lampley went bananas, “Lewis lands an uppercut and Grant goes down! Thunderous uppercut!”
Grant rose to his feet and took the standing eight-count from Mercante Jr. His face was a mask of bewilderment, clearly buzzed after the right hand duo from Lewis.
The action resumed with Lewis as cool as an assassin. While he moved in, Grant tossed the hold and run strategy to the curb and elected to fight and fire back while standing in close.
It proved to be a fatal mistake that allowed the champion to find punching range to blister Grant with three, four, five unanswered right hands.
Grant staggered across the ring and crashed into the corner. Although still on his feet, Mercante Jr. ruled a knockdown as the ropes clearly saved him from a visit to the third row at ringside.
Not a soul was sitting inside Madison Square Garden as the bout continued. The Lewis avalanche continued as Grant, who had not an ounce of legs underneath his massive frame, again wobbled backward. He employed a new strategy, holding on for dear life.
With seconds remaining in the first round, another left jab followed by a straight right hand deposited Grant on his backside. Foreman screamed, “Whoa! That’s it! That’s it!”
The bell sounded to end the round and save Grant from further punishment in the form of Lewis fireworks. Wobbled, dazed and stunned, Grant was determined to continue.
The bell sounded to begin Round 2. Lewis was now testing Grant’s legs, desire and heart. Grant answered the call, clinching, weathering the storm, and then launching right hand missiles of his own.
While the seconds ticked away, Lewis followed his wounded prey around the ring looking for the big finish. Grant, to his credit, held his own and was now giving the champion a chance to taste his power.
Just 20 seconds remained in Round 2 when a right uppercut from Lewis put Grant flat on his back.
Lampley called the final seconds. “He lands another uppercut and floors Grant for the fourth time! That’s it!”
His head having bounced off the canvas and now looking up at the ring lights, Grant’s eyes were dazed from the furious Lewis assault.
He desperately tried to get to his feet and failed, crashing into the ropes. Mercante Jr. bear hugged the now defeated challenger, saving him from further abuse while signaling a halt the bout.
The fight was mercifully stopped at 2:53 of Round 2. Lennox Lewis remained the kingpin of the division.
Although Grant would fight on in the coming years, he never achieved the expectations many had for him. In the loss to Lewis, who was clearly the dominant force in the division, he showed heart, guts and dogged determination.
Lewis would hit a speed bump in South Africa when he was knocked out by Hasim Rahman. Lewis would rebound, regain the title in an immediate rematch, and later retire having defeated every man that he had faced in the ring.