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Montell "Ice" Griffin


BoztheMadman
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Montell Griffin was an outstanding light heavyweight of the 90's and 00's. He has a unique achievement which few can claim: having wins over both James Toney (two, no less) and Roy Jones jr on his record. Even though one of the wins over Toney was questionable and the fact that he beat Jones by disqualification, noone can still deny that Griffin was an elite-level boxer. Very short for a light heavyweight at 5'7, Griffin was equipped with a strong build and very good boxing skills. His punches were delivered from all angles and he had a good chin also, only stopped by hardest hitters. He was not a particularly hard hitter himself but put his punches together well and could score a stoppage by accumulation.

 

Griffin was born 6 June 1970 in Chicago, Illinois, full name Montell Julian Griffin. As amateur, he won the 1992 United States light heavyweight title, defeating John Ruiz on points along the way. He also qualified for the Olympics that same year and was eliminated in the quarter final on points by Torsten May. He compiled a record of 36-5 before turning professional in February '93. One of his early opponents was Ka-Dy King, who later unsuccessfully challenged the WBO champion Dariusz Michalczewski. Griffin decisioned him in a 6-round fight. After winning his first 14 fights, he was matched against one of the pound for pound top boxers of the time: James "Lights Out" Toney, for the Intercontinental IBF title in February '95. Even though Toney actually knocked him down in the third round, the knockdown was not recognised by the referee and after a close and action-packed fight, Griffin went on to win in an upset by way of majority decision. Myself I scored the fight 115-113 for Toney, but still it was an impressive feat of the younger and less experienced Griffin to give Toney such a hard fight. In July '96 Griffin also captured the NABF title, which is considered the second best thing to a world title by some, by stopping Matthew Charleston by TKO 11. On 6 December that year, he had a rematch against Toney, this time for the (now defunct) WBU title. This time Griffin won by unanimous decision against a somewhat lazy Toney and, despite the opinions of Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley, I myself thought he deserved that decision. This victory set him up for the biggest fight of his life, against Roy Jones jr, who had just won the WBC title against Mike McCallum. For the first time in his career, Jones found himself in a real fight. Griffin was again impressing with his awkward style and angles, even though Jones also had his moments. After 8 rounds, the scores were 77-75 and 76-75 for Jones and 76-75 for Griffin. Jones sported a mouse under his right eye and knew he had to step on the gas to keep his title. So in the 9th he hurt Griffin with a right hand and jumped at him. Griffin went down to one knee, to clear his head, in his own words. And then something unimaginable happened: Jones stepped forward and hit him twice on the head. Griffin fell and could not get up. Thus, Jones got disqualified and Griffin, who had come in wearing a t-shirt saying he was gonna shock the world, did just that, but not just by his own doing.

 

The New Daily News had Griffin ahead 77-75 at the time of the ending and many agreed, though the ending was controversial, that Griffin had given Jones his toughest fight yet. Yet, Griffin wouldn't get so much time to rejoyce at his victory and enjoy his WBC belt. The first loss on his record spurred Jones to come back meaner than ever and on 7 August, 3 months after the first fight, he and Griffin again met in the ring. The promotion was billed as "Unfinished Business". Griffin was a 4-1 underdog and it proved justified, as Jones floored him early in the first round with a left hook and then finished him off with another and the fight ended at 2 minutes 31 seconds of the first round. It was a devastating ending to Griffin's brief championship reign and must have taken some of his prime. He was back in the ring 2 months later however and decisioned Vinson Durham. He also beat some fringe contenders and minor names in the division at the time, like Karl Willis (by TKO3) and Randall Yonker (also TKO3). In November '98 he tried to recapture the NABF title against the very slick and fast Eric Harding, but dropped a split decision to the taller man, despite dropping him in the 7th round. In August next year he went for the first time outside of USA to fight in Germany against the great Polish light heavyweight, the WBO champ Dariusz "Tiger" Michalczewski. Griffin took control in the start and outboxed Tiger Dariusz for the first three rounds, before Michalczewski suddenly exploded in the fourth and hurt Griffin with several hard shots, before Joe Cortez stopped the fight a second before the bell, much to Griffin's chagrin. He claimed he wasn't that badly hurt, but the result stayed unchanged. He then went to China of all places, to win the minor IBC title by a wide decision against Jose Luis Rivera. He then returned to US and beat Ed Dalton by TKO 6 to win the WBC Continental title.

 

He fought sporadically the next couple years, but scored a noted victory over Derrick Harmon, who challenged both Jones jr and Michalczewski, in a defence of his WBC Continental title. It was another clear UD for Ice. He then beat then-promising contender George Khalid Jones by another UD to regain the NABF belt before getting his last chance to become a world champion again against Antonio Tarver himself. Fight took place 26 April 2003, on the same card as James Toney vs Vassily Jirov. He fought well early on, but was down in the first and last rounds and wasn't able to get a single round by any of the judges. Despite Tarver being slightly older, he was much taller at 6'2 and hit harder, as well as being a good technician. That would be the last time Griffin would fight for a world title. He lost his next attempts to win a ticket to the world title fight, losing to Julio Cesar Gonzalez by a technical decision and getting stopped by TKO 11 against Glen Johnson, both times in IBF eliminator fights. He finally retired in 2011, after beating DeAndrey Abron by UD8. He also had a cruiserweight fight before that which ended with a draw, against Ross Thompson.

 

Montell Griffin had the skill to compete with the best, but it was perhaps his lack of a big punch that made it harder for him to succeed. He was a very good defensive boxer and counterpuncher and was trained by Eddie Futch in his prime. He retired with a record of 50(30)-8-1.

Edited by BoztheMadman
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