Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis figures undefeated Michael Grant is the perfect candidate for a first defense of the undisputed heavyweight championship.
"I'd rather get him now, before he gets any better," Lewis said after the pay-per-view fight was set Tuesday for April 29 at Madison Square Garden.
Grant is plenty good already, unbeaten in 31 fights with 22 knockouts, the most recent an impressive recovery against Andrew Golota last November.
Golota dropped Grant twice in the first round but was unable to finish him off and wound up being stopped in the 10th round. Lewis thought that spoke volumes about the big guy from Norristown, Pa.
"He got hit. He got hurt. He got knocked down. And he came back to win," Lewis said. "That showed good heart and good desire."
And it earned Grant a $2.5 million payday for the championship shot. Lewis will make $7.5 million, down from the $15 million he earned when he beat Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight championship in Las Vegas a week before the Golota-Grant fight. The pay-per-view price on TVKO is $44.95, down from the usual $49.95.
Grant said he took a lot away from the Golota experience.
"I learned about myself in the Golota fight," he said. "I learned that I'm going to stay in there, that there's no quit in me. I wasn't hurt. I didn't even see the punch. I got caught with my hands down."
There was speculation that Golota's knockdowns made Grant a more desirable challenger for Lewis.
"If that's what they saw, that's the mistake they've made," Grant said. "They didn't see it clearly."
Trainer Don Turner shrugged off Golota's knockdowns. "Forget Golota," he said. "Did you ever see a horse race? The backstretch and clubhouse turns don't count. It's who crossed the finish line first."
Lewis is enjoying his status after finishing off Holyfield in the rematch following their disputed draw at the Garden last March.
"Now, I'm undisputed," he said. "There's no disputing that."
That meant he couldn't be bothered with watching the Mike Tyson-Julius Francis fight last month in Manchester. He saw that match as irrelevant.
"There was only one guy fighting," he said. "I was on the beach in Jamaica. I knew the result already."
Just because he didn't watch Tyson doesn't mean Lewis doesn't think about him. And just because Don King isn't around for this promotion doesn't mean a little fractured English didn't surface.
"Tyson's definitely a fight I would want," Lewis said. "But politricks get in the way. I'll definitely push for it. I want it. Tyson's the only man of my era that I haven't fought. I want to put a whipping on him. He paid me money once not to fight him. If he still feels that way, I don't mind."
When he was a No. 1 contender in 1996, Lewis was paid $4 million to step aside so hat Tyson could fight WBA title holder Bruce Seldon. Now, with all the championship belts in his possession, he's in position to dictate the terms.
The Tyson talk energized Lewis briefly but he soon returned to the subject at hand, the 6-foot-7 Grant.
"Right now, I'm going after the bigger Mike, the stronger Mike, the more dangerous Mike," he said.
And right now, Grant's also the only undefeated Mike.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed