Heavyweight Card Turned Out A Little Light Golota, Grant Were Highlights, But Better Read The Fine Print

Posted: February 01, 1999

ATLANTIC CITY — It is boxing's equivalent of bait-and-switch.

You take two of the sleeker, shinier models on the showroom floor, plaster their names and features on billboards and in TV spots, and give everyone the impression they're somehow being paired off.

Unsuspecting consumers who do not read the fine print might not catch the fact that the luxury vehicles on display actually are going against a pair of clunkers from the trade-in lot.

But Saturday night's Bally's Park Place-sponsored, HBO-televised "G-Men" doubleheader, featuring prime heavyweight hope-

fuls Michael Grant and Andrew Golota in separate bouts, ultimately might prove to be more than another case of misrepresentation to be brought before the Better Business Bureau.

Grant's 10th-round technical knockout of a gritty but outgunned former sparring partner, Ahmad Abdin, and Golota's 10- round, unanimous decision over rusting loaner Jesse Ferguson in Atlantic City Convention Hall were portrayed by the sales manager as a couple of meaning-

ful test-drives that could lead to something actually worth purchasing.

A Grant-Golota matchup sometime in this year "is a fight we've been talking about and would love to make," said Lou DiBella, senior vice president of HBO Sports.

"I think it's going to have to become clear to both guys what their alternatives are," DiBella said. "If there isn't a big enough money fight for them elsewhere, i.e. a title shot or a Mike Tyson, then I think there's a good chance you will see Grant-Golota later this year."

Dino Duva, president of Main Events, which promotes Grant (29-0, 21 knockouts) and Golota (33-3, 27 KOs), doesn't dismiss such a matchup, although he has his eye on another brand name with a high sticker price.

"Realistically, the fight Andrew wants most is Mike Tyson. That's no secret," Duva said. "But if a Tyson fight doesn't happen, I'm sure Andrew would be open to the biggest fight possible, and Michael Grant might be the biggest fight possible. If they do collide, it would be a great match."

Tyson, whose recent fifth- round knockout of Francois Botha suggests he remains in need of an engine overhaul - particularly the head gaskets - probably will pass on Poland's Golota in favor of another European import with less horsepower, possibly Denmark's Brian Nielsen.

But whichever way Tyson and the winner of the March 13 unification showdown between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis choose to go, their days as everyone's dream rides could be nearing the end of the highway.

Longtime HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant said Golota and especially Grant are low-mileage beauties with stylish lines and a lot of zip under the hood.

"Golota fought a more measured fight than we're used to seeing from him," Merchant noted. "He's gifted but mercurial. We'll see what happens when he fights somebody and there's more shots incoming. Can he stay under control then? We'll see then if he can take the heat and not lose it.

"Grant, I think, is more of the real deal. He's a young fighter with more power than any fighter needs, but he seems to have an idea about strategy and how to break down his opponent. He doesn't have to rely solely on his power. His performance wasn't sensational in such a way that everybody goes, `Wow, he knocked him out with one punch.' But to boxing people, what he did was very impressive, very solid all-around.

"I can foresee a time within six months to a year when Grant would be favored over any of the old, familiar faces and names. He isn't that well-known yet, but he has the size, the look, the magnetism and the looks to become something special.

"Over the last decade we've had four pretty darn good heavyweights - Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis and Riddick Bowe - on top. George Foreman has been in the mix at times, giving us some fun moments. But those guys are, what, 33 to 36 years old? It's time for somebody else, like Grant or maybe David Tua, to step up to that highest level."

Grant, the 6-7, 250-pound Norristown resident who shares trainer Don Turner's tactical expertise with Holyfield, knew from his sessions in the gym with Abdin (25-2- 3, 11 KOs) that the scowling Syrian with the five-o'clock shadow wasn't going to go out from the effects of one big shot.

So Grant softened up Abdin for six or seven rounds with his telephone-pole jab, saving his sore right hand for a time when it could be used to maximum effect.

When Abdin's face and body had been sufficiently tenderized, Turner turned Grant loose. A right uppercut to the solar plexus dropped Abdin in the closing moments of the ninth round, and Grant turned the pressure up even higher in Round 10. He floored Abdin twice more, with a counter right and a jolting jab, putting him in a state of such distress that even the bell couldn't save him.

Upon examining Abdin in the corner, ring physician Kenneth Remsen told referee Eddie Cotton: "He's disoriented. Don't let him come out."

Grant's victory earned him the minor league North American Boxing Federation championship, which might be described as a down payment on a title belt of greater consequence.

"I just stayed calm and cool," Grant said. "I established my jab first. I wasn't worried because I'm a late finisher."

Unlike Grant, Golota is so inclined to fret he actually considered withdrawing when he learned the 41-year-old Ferguson (26-18, 16 KOs) was to replace the injured Jimmy Thunder three days before the fight. One can only imagine the anguish Golota went through when, say, the music industry changed from vinyl to eight-tracks to audio cassettes to CDs.

There always is a chance Golota - who is best known for two disqualification losses to Bowe - will revert to Tysonesque thuggery in a tight spot. He even dropped Ferguson with a left hook to the protective cup in the second round, obliging referee Joe Cortez to give the "Boogie Man" time to recover. But Golota otherwise was remarkably restrained in pitching a virtual shutout, winning by 100-89 margins on two scorecards and by 99- 90 on the other.

"I was very impressed with Andrew's boxing ability," said Golota's lead trainer, Roger Bloodworth. "He showed a lot of patience. Ferguson is an awkward guy, but Andrew took him apart with his jab and his right hand."

PUNCH LINES

South Philadelphia heavyweight Gerald "The Jedi" Nobles (16-0, 14 KOs) overcame two penalty-point deductions for low blows to register an eighth-round, unanimous decision over John Kiser (14-20-4, 5 KOs) . . . Another heavyweight, Jeremy Williams (34-2, 31 KOs) knocked down Derrick Roddy (18-15, 16 KOs) four times to win on a first-round stoppage.

Send e-mail to fernanb@phillynews.com

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