Not even the best boxers shine every time out.

So it was tonight in New York City, where Madison Square Garden hosted two less than scintillating fights in the heavyweight division.

In the main event, HBO's groomed-for-the-title prospect Michael Grant couldn't dispose of Great White Hype Lou Savarese, despite two knockdowns in the final round.

Although after the final bell, Savarese looked severely beaten (two cuts, bloody mouth and a terribly disfigured face), it was not was sensational performance that made him that way. Grant's awkward style, consisting mostly of a pawing yet devastating jab, combined with Savarese's desire to fight in close, resulted in more tie ups than a Marquis de Said party thrown by the Boy Scouts. Before most of these tangles, Grant would land a solid jab, a thunderous right or a gigantic uppercut...and as the fight progressed, the punishment piled up on the stationary Savarese.

Grant's limitations were on display in this bout, as once every round Savarese would be able to land a head swiveling counter punch of his own. Although Grant ended the night unmarked, Savarese was able to occasionally land the type of punches that Tua and Ibeabuchi hospitalize opponents with. What's more, Grant's lumbering frame often makes for some ungraceful footwork and fumbling combinations. To date, these weaknesses have been more than made up for by Grant's physique. At 6'7" and 256 pounds of solid muscle, even the most routine Grant jab lands like a telephone pole to the head and even glancing blows wear his opponents out over time. Grant's W10 improves him to 30-0/21.

Credit Savarese with a good chin, especially in the final round, when referee Jim Santa could have called for a mercy-stoppage at a number of points. But despite his courage, Savarese was equally unimpressive: firing few shots when he had chances inside, and showing that new conditioning trainer Tim Hallmark has a lot of work left to do. Savarese earned a career high $1,000,000 for this fight, and he paid a price for it. Retirement might be the wiser choice.

On the undercard, Jeremey Williams did little to help his already shaky reputation as a fringe contender. Originally Williams was scheduled to face mauler Ike Ibeabuchi, who was replaced by big Hasim Rahman, who was himself replaced only this week by the 14-9 Maurice Harris. To make a long story short, Harris is now 15-9 and Jeremey Williams may have fought his last big fight in the division.

Williams opened the fight by pounding Harris upstairs and down with crisp flurries. Harris' superior straight right stung Williams back in the early rounds and kept things even. Despite hurting Jeremey in the second and fourth stanzas, late-sub Harris soon looked completely spent. Too tired to finish Williams, Harris temporarily let Williams back in the fight in the fifth.

But in the second half of the fight, it was Williams' turn to tire, collapsing to the canvas from exhaustion in the sixth, and only barely hanging on to finish the fight. Harris took the sixth and seventh with a knee-buckling right hand, and then after breaking that hand, used only his left to beat Williams until the final bell. Williams was increasingly inactive in the last several rounds, and after Lou Duva and Ronnie Shields _begged_ him to win with a knockout in the tenth, Williams went out and instead ran from his opponent. Not the type of performance that has television executives lining up to book you again. Harris W10 on a wide unanimous decision.

Overall, tonight's promised slugfests resulted in two sleep-inducing waltzes that did little to enhance the reputation of any of the men involved. Better luck next time....

.....Chris Bushnell


© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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