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Lewis Vows To Beat Grant at MSG

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NEW YORK (AP) — This time, Lennox Lewis wants to take the Garden path to a clear-cut victory.

There were some bumps in the heavyweight champion's earlier trips to Madison Square Garden, two bouts covering 22 rounds.

Lewis won a majority 10-round decision over Ray Mercer on May 10, 1996, in a fight more than a few people thought he lost. Then, in a title bout against Evander Holyfield that almost everybody thought he won, Lewis had to settle for a draw on March 13, 1999.

On Saturday night, Lewis will defend his title against unbeaten Michael Grant.

Earlier in the week, Emanuel Steward, Lewis' trainer, said, ``I can see him losing.''

Perhaps Steward just wanted to light a fire under the champion. Lewis, however, has sounded motivated, something he hasn't appeared to be in some past fights.

``I'm just going out and show I'm the best fighter on the planet,'' said the 34-year-old champion from Britain, adding he's not worried about the judges, whoever they might be.

The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Lewis was a 5-2 favorite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to beat his 6-7, 250-pound opponent. Grant calls the odds irrelevant.

Grant (31-0, 22 knockouts) looked to be headed for his first defeat after being knocked down twice in the first round by Andrew Golota in his last fight Nov. 20. However, he rallied to knock down Golota in the 10th round and win when Golota quit.

``No way if Lennox hits Grant the way Golota hit Grant, Grant will get up,'' said Frank Maloney, Lewis' manager. ``He's strong and undefeated, but he doesn't have the one-punch knockout power of Lennox.''

Lewis stopped Golota in the first round of a title defense Oct. 4, 1997. The champion (35-1, 27 knockouts), however, scoffs at comparing fights, choosing to look at Grant as a No. 1 contender.

Grant's best chance of becoming the 18th unbeaten challenger to become heavyweight appears to be taking the fight into the trenches.

Despite his height and 86-inch reach, the 27-year-old Grant, of Norristown, Pa., is a good short puncher, and he seems to be more effective fighting inside that at any distance. Lewis (84-inch reach) prefers to keep the action at arms length, and he has a better left jab than Grant does.

``I'm not going to give him a chance to think,'' Grant said. ``I'm going to jump on him.''

Steward, however, thinks that Lewis can turn infighting to his favor.

``I think experience and short precision punches will win this fight,'' he said.

Don Turner, Grant's trainer and also trainer of Evander Holyfield, believes Grant has to force the action.

``Michael has to outpunch Lennox,'' Turner said. ``He has to beat him to the punch. If he does, it will be easy. If doesn't, it will be a long night.''

It will be Lewis' first fight since he retained the WBC title and won the IBF and WBA championships by scoring a unanimous decision over Holyfield Nov. 20.

Lewis since has lost the WBA title because a federal judge ruled he breached a contract with promoter Don King because he agreed that if won the rematch against Holyfield, he would then make a mandatory defense against the highest available WBA contender, who is not Grant (No. 5).

Although Lewis plans to appeal the decision, King is planning to match top-ranked John Ruiz and Holyfield, now ranked No. 2, for the vacant WBA title June 3 at Las Vegas.

The Lewis-Grant fight will be carried on pay-per-view (TVKO) and is expected to start about 11:30 p.m. EDT.

The telecast will include three other fights: an IBF featherweight title defense by Paul Ingle of Britain against Junior Jones of New York; a 10-round welterweight match between Arturo Gatti of Jersey City, N.J., and Eric Jakubowski of Whiting, Ind.; and a 12-round heavyweight bout between Wladimir Klitchsko of Ukraine and David Bostice of Mesa, Ariz.
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