Montell Griffin: “I beat the best Roy Jones”


boxingby Geoffrey Ciani – This week’s edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with former WBC light heavyweight champion Montell Griffin, who was in final preparations for his bout last night against Ross ‘The Boss’ Thompson. Griffin was going for win number fifty in his career against Thompson but came up short. The fight was ultimately ruled a ten round draw with final scorecards read 96-94 for Griffin, 97-93 for Thompson, and 95-95. During the interview, Montell spoke about various moments throughout his long and illustrious career as a professional boxer. Here is some of what he had to say:

On being the first man to defeat Roy Jones Junior:
“Because Roy Jones was the star and I was like a new guy coming up I never get the benefit of the doubt. I have heard so many stories. I had seen the story that Dan Rafael wrote. The fight was what, thirteen years ago, and they are still saying stuff about how I was faking it and I needed an Oscar or whatever. It’s just funny coming from a guy who ain’t never fought before, but it’s just funny, all my peers come up to me and say that’s dirty what Roy did to me, but as far as the whole fight—first of all, I was glad for the opportunity.. I knew I was good enough to beat him. I had the best trainer in the world Eddie Futch and Thell Torrence. We had the greatest game plan in the world and I took my game plan to the best of my ability. I thought I was winning the fight earlier across the board but because they gave him a knockdown earlier in the fight, I think he was winning by one point on one scorecard, he was winning by two points on one scorecard, and I was winning but I thought I was winning the fight. So what happened was instead of me blocking a right hand I tried to roll with it. He caught me with a good right hand behind the head and I was a little dizzy. I knew what was going on so I just told myself, ‘Montell, it’s the ninth round. You got three rounds left. You got to be winning this fight. Take a knee! Take a knee, clear your head, and we’ll just come out and we got to win 10, 11, and 12’. So when I took the knee, I pulled back, went down on my knee, and looked at up at the referee to start his count. By the time I looked up, the man hit me. He hit me the first time and it caught me off guard and then he loaded up and hit me the second time and at that point I could hear everything that was going on but it was like my body was paralyzed. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything, I was trying to get up but I couldn’t move and I heard the referee counting and I was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe this! They’re going to count me out on this dirty punch.’ When I got up, came to, and got my faculties together I heard my brother say to Larry to disqualify Roy. Roy came over and apologized to me on like three occasions, said he was sorry. As we found out later on in his career that he failed steroid tests so I just feel that he was having roid rage. He was frustrated from what I was doing to him, he caught roid rage, he was frustrated so he hit me. The funny thing about it is you still have people saying that I was faking and I needed an Oscar, but if I would have got killed in the ring then what would they have said? So that’s the part that frustrates me, because you got guys who ain’t never been in the ring saying stuff like that. I mean, like you said I’m known for that fight. I beat the best Roy Jones. When he was at his peak in his prime, I beat him fair and square. I didn’t tell the man to hit me while I was down, and he didn’t knock me down, I took a knee. So it’s always so many different stories but since he was the star and I was up and coming so all of the stories pretty much favor him.”

On the similarities between his DQ win against Jones and Andre Dirrell’s DQ win against Arthur Abraham:
“Yeah, I saw that fight and I was sad. I hate to see that because the guy was pretty much winning the whole fight. I actually met Dirrell a few years ago, we sparred in Vegas. He’s a nice kid and I got a chance to talk to him and I watched the fight. He looked real good. He slipped and fell, got caught. You know, Abraham, I guess had to do what he had to do. I don’t know if he was trying to be dirty or not, but he caught the kid. The thing I didn’t understand, his people shouldn’t have let him talk because he didn’t know where he was at. It ended up being like a sad situation because he didn’t know what happened and he was crying and it was just a bad situation. I think I heard Tarver brought up my name along with Roy Jones. It’s just something that happens in the game. You hate that it happens but things happen.”

Regarding his rematch with Roy Jones five months after their original encounter:
“The two major things that were different in that fight—the most major part of that fight—and like I said, I don’t have to make no excuses. It’s over. It’s thirteen years ago. I didn’t warm up five minutes for that fight. One of my trainers, Kenny Crooms, had went to Roy’s room to watch him get his hands wrapped. He came back to the dressing room and said, ‘Man, Roy Jones is dressed, warming up, and sweating’, and I had on street clothes and I’m like, ‘Why?’ I don’t have to lie. It’s all in the past. There was a sign on the door that said ‘Get ready at 10:45, the fight will be starting at 11’. So this was much earlier than 10:45, I was sitting in my street clothes when they told me I had two minutes to get into the ring. I don’t have to lie. It’s over with, it’s been done. I forgot his name, John—I forgot his last name, but John actually told Chris Byrd that it’s a shame what they did to Montell, how they just rushed him out there. Roy Jones is a great fighter—one of the greatest fighters ever, but like I said, when I found out he failed the steroid test I just lost a lot of respect for him because I just thought he was on steroids when he beat me so that’s the only way I can look at it.”

On his fight against WBO champion Dariusz Michalczewski:
“I went to Germany which was no big deal. Even though it was a professional, I went to Russia I beat the Russian in the amateurs. It was no big deal to me. I went to Germany. It was a nice city, it was way better than I thought. I got in the ring with Dariusz Michaelczewski, one of the greatest fighters ever, and I beat the man easy for three rounds. The man hit me with a couple of shots after the bell rang and Joe Cortez stopped the fight. Now you tell me why they stopped the fight? I’m glad when you said you saw the fight. I don’t have too much else I have to say. I was winning on all three scorecards, I beat the man easy for three rounds, he threw a couple of punches after the bell rang, I didn’t get knocked down, I wasn’t wobbled or nothing, and Joe Cortez—an American referee—stopped the fight. So you tell me? Like I said, I’ve been BS’d my whole career. The Eric Harding fight I was BS’d—my second loss. I was the number two/number three man in the world looking for a rematch with Roy Jones. The man ran like a girl for twelve rounds, they robbed me. I go to Germany, Dariusz Michaelczewski, I beat him easily—they stop the fight for no reason. So that was my third fight that I lost that I felt I got cheated out of again after getting cheated out of the Olympics in ’92. I got cheated out of my Gold Medal in ’92, then I turn pro, I get cheated out of three straight fights. I was just tired of it. So I said I was going to quit, I was going to retire. I was just tired of it. So I sat around for eight or nine months and got bored afterwards and said okay, I’ll come back. Like I said, that was my third loss. Then I fought Rico Hoye, I get robbed on national TV—again. That was my fourth loss. Then I fight Julio Gonzalez, the man head butted me twelve times. I was bleeding like a pig, but then he gets cut after the fourth round then they stop the fight because they could go to the scorecards. So like I said, it’s just been happening my whole career. I fought Glen Johnson in Florida in his backyard—which I blame myself for that fight. I wanted to win that fight so bad, and I got the opportunity and I was just so happy. I trained so hard that I burned myself out. I killed myself dead in the gym. Not to take anything away from Glen Johnson. He won the fight. That’s one of the fights I can say I lost. I went in there, I tried to be at my best, I burned myself out in training and I lost. Same fight after that, I go to Russia. The whole thing, I knew I was fighting a young kid without that much experience. So my thing was take him in the late rounds. The ninth/tenth round, tenth/eleventh round he was dead tired. I’m picking it up, I’m ready to knock him out, the man head butts me. I look at the referee, the referee told him to jump on me. So that’s just my whole career. I love this game to death. I don’t think that this game gave me back what I put into it, but I love boxing. Do I love who controls the game and all the dirty stuff that goes on with the game? No, but hey it is what it is. One thing I have learned as I grew up and got older and I was humbled, I just came to the fact that hey, you got to play the cards you were dealt. Everybody can’t be Oscar De La Hoya, everybody can’t be Sugar Ray Leonard, so just do the best with what God blessed you with and the opportunities you got and the position you got out in and that’s what I did.”

On his two career victories over James “Lights Out” Toney:
“This is what I tell everybody—watch the James Toney fight with the volume down and it’s two totally different fights. James Toney is another guy. He’s one of the greatest fighters ever in history. He’s got one of the best chins. I’m not saying that because I beat him or I because got a win against him. I think his career is better than Roy Jones’. I think he is one of the greatest. He’s a dinosaur in this game and I love him and respect him but styles make fights. Like I tell everybody, turn the volume down and watch the fight. When you got a guy, James Toney was an HBO fighter, you got HBO announcers, they’re pro-James Toney. They wanted him to win so bad. The funny thing about it, this is what I tell everybody.—I fought James Toney twice. If it’s controversial and I didn’t win, I fought James Toney so that means there was six different judges right? Not one judge voted for James Toney. Out of six different judges, if he got robbed both fights, not one judge voted for him so what does that tell you? The commentators don’t judge. I wasn’t an HBO fighter so Larry Merchant, all of them guys, George Foreman—they were on James Toney’s side. Like I tell everybody, if it’s controversial, watch the fight with the volume down and then you’ll see who really won. Don’t listen to what they’re saying, just watch the fight. The way I look at things now man, I’m going to be 40 years old, the past is behind me. It’s over. I’m ready to move on in my life, if it’s boxing, if it’s something else, the past is over, it’s behind me. I couldn’t care less about all that stuff that happened. I feel at 5’7”, I’ve been one of the greatest fighters, have been one of the best defensive fighters. I did the best I was blessed with.”

On who he believes would have won a fight between Roy Jones and Dariusz Michalczewski and why he believes the fight never happened:
“Well after my fight with Michalczewski, me and Roy actually had a conversation. The funny thing about it is, Roy Jones and James Toney, even though we fought they are two guys that I looked up to so I look at them as big brothers and it’s just funny that I have talked to them and they have come up to me and said they’re sorry about different fights that they’ve seen me get cheated out of. James Toney has done it, Roy Jones walked over to me and said, ‘Man, that’s why I’m not going over there. I saw what happened to you. I’m not going over there’. But if they ever would have fought, because of his speed—Michalczewski, his number one thing was his conditioning. He was tough and he was conditioned, but with Roy’s speed and his leg speed, I think he would have beaten him easy. Fighting Michalczewski for those three rounds was so easy it wasn’t even funny. One thing I can say about Roy, and I don’t mean no disrespect towards any other fighter. I sparred Floyd Mayweather Junior, one of the greatest fighters ever in history. I fought Roy Jones twice. I sparred Floyd Mayweather maybe six/seven years ago, he was like 135/140, and Roy’s hand speed is second to none—to nobody. He just was a God-gifted fighter. God blessed him with a lot of attributes with his speed and his reflexes and he used it to the best of his ability. Like I said, when he failed the steroid test it kind of hurt me because of course me feeling like I was cheated, and because I looked up to this guy. Knowing that he cheated, it kind of took a little away from him. The funny thing about it is something ain’t right because this man, for as great as he was, he fell faster than any style I’ve ever seen in boxing history.”

On how he would ultimately like to be remembered when his career is all said and done:
“The main thing is, all my peers who I talk to all say I’m a Hall of Famer, all say I’m a great fighter. So that means the most to me. As far as the boxing fans and the boxing writers and all that, I don’t think I really got the credit I deserve, but as long as my peers look at me as a great fighter and say I was a great fighter, that’s pretty much good enough for me. Mike McCallum, Virgil Hall, these guys are Hall of Famers, these guys I trained with, talked to a lot—they all gave me credit. That meant the most to me. I remember when Riddick Bowe fought Golota the second fight, I had beat James the second time and I had never really been looked upon as a star and never really gotten any credit. When I went to that fight and I had about ten or twelve world champions at the time come up to me and shake my hand and say I was a great fighter. Pernell Whitaker and James Toney actually were my two favorite fighters when I was an amateur. Pernell walked up to me and said, ‘Man you looked good’ and he said, ‘Man I’m sincere’, and he said it and then he pulled me so I could look him in the face and he said, ‘Man you looked good’ and I said, ‘Thank you’ and that meant more to me than anything. When my peers say I was a good fighter or a great fighter, that means more to me than anything.”


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