Forgotten Warrior Uriah Grant - The Man Who Beat Tommy Hearns!

03.08.07 - By James Slater: It’s a sad fact in all sports, not least boxing, that some athletes get almost completely forgotten as soon as they head into retirement. World titles may have been fought for, even won, yet still these guys disappear from the fans’ consciousness faster than a badly placed bet. Former world class, indeed world champion, boxer Uriah Grant is one such athlete.

Despite the fact that Jamaican-born Grant met no fewer than nine world champions and managed to hold for a short time his own world title in a career that lasted twenty years, it’s a dead-cert that most boxing fans will be hard pressed to remember him today. Even more noteworthy a feat from his career, however, is the fact that Grant once fought - and defeated - the great Thomas Hearns. You’d think any fighter capable of doing that would be recalled by fight fans nowadays. But no, Uriah Grant is no guy easily brought up when fight fans talk about boxing.

Grant never had it easy as a pro. Boxing for money for the first time way back in June of 1984, Uriah’s debut went okay. He beat one Rogelio Bolanos - who was then an 8-0 fighter - in two rounds in Florida. Next up, though, Grant, then aged twenty-three, was matched with Olympic gold medallist Henry Tillman in Tillman’s pro debut. Grant was stopped in two rounds. From then on in, the Jamaican’s career figured to become one that was typical of a fighter that was tough-but-not-quite-lucky-enough-to-make-it. He would lose a further twenty times over the next three decades.

Still, only five of these defeats would come by stoppage, and during this time Uriah would actually defeat some very notable names. And then, in June of 1997, after beating men like Matthew Saad Muhammad and Saul Montana (who goes in with David Tua on August 18th) and losing to others, such as Bobby Czyz, Frank Tate, Alfred Cole - in two failed shots at “Ice’s” IBF cruiserweight championship - and Chris Byrd, Grant boxed Adolpho Washington in his third world title challenge. Amazingly, for a fighter with a 25-12 record, Grant actually won - wining the IBF cruiserweight title Al Cole had vacated so as to campaign up at heavyweight in the process. At this amazing and unlikely successful point in his up and down career, Grant had only been
KO’d the one time - by Tillman. His reign as a world champ would not last long, however.

Imamu Mayfield of New Jersey relieved Uriah of his belt, with a unanimous decision victory in November of the same year. Then, in a rematch with Montana, Uriah was stopped in the twelfth and final round. Incredibly, it was just two fights later when Grant, now 27-14, would score what was arguably his most significant win. Boxing the legendary Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns in 2000,in what was being billed as Tommy’s “Final Hit,” Grant tore up the script and won by big upset in round two. Hearns’ injured ankle may have been the real reason (Tommy had gone over on his ankle in the round and was unable to continue) but the win was undeniably Grant’s. What should have propelled him into at least something approaching the big leagues only led to further defeat for the Jamaican, however. Put in with Britain’s big-punching Carl Thompson in “The Cat’s” home country in his very next fight after shocking Hearns, Grant was stopped in five rounds. The die was cast; despite being a former world champ, Uriah would only be a journeyman from here on in.

A move up to heavyweight, though it saw him last the distance with the over forty pounds heavier Brian Nielson in early 2002, proved insignificant. Boxing alternately at cruiser and heavy from then until his final retirement, Uriah would lose another five times. His final fight, a one round KO defeat at the hands of heavyweight Elieser Castillo, led to his immediate post-fight retirement announcement. Grant had lost for the twenty-first and last time.

He’ll never get his name in many books about the sport‘s greats, he’ll rarely come up in discussions amongst fight fans and he’ll never be more than a foot-note among former world champions. But Uriah Grant WAS a world champion. He was also the last man to beat the great Thomas Hearns. As old as Tommy may have been at the time, this achievement alone should have insured Uriah’s place in the average fights fan’s memory.

Uriah Grant: Former IBF world cruiserweight champion. Final record: 30-21(28).

Article posted on 03.08.2007

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