Interview with Otis Grant held just before his comeback victory

November 14, 2003 By Keith Terceira:

November 14, 1998 may have been the toughest bout in Magic Grants pro-career when he lost to Roy Jones Jr. but his toughest fight in life was still to come. After a five year layoff Otis Grant (31-2-1) has returned to the ring. Well, he is waiting to return, hopefully his bout with Dingaan Thobela (40-10-2) will come off on November 22 at Bell Centre in Montreal. The match was to have been for August , then this Saturday but problems with the Lucas- Beyer fight has forced it to be moved to next week.

We caught up with Otis today and asked about his take on his return and his battle with injuries after a car accident in 1999.

Terceira; Otis how are you feeling.

Grant; I feel great I’m working hard trying to get into shape, my weight came off good, I’m down to fighting weight. I contracted for 172 and weighed 171 yesterday. On that front everything is right.

Keith: I wanted to ask you about the accident, recovery, and comeback.

Grant; Well the accident did end my career and forced me into retirement, this is my first fight in five years. When Interbox approached me an asked me if I would consider coming back, I was already in the gym everyday training some young fighters with my brother. So I started training with them everyday to see what kind of shape I’m in, how my injuries are holding up and from doing that, you know, going through the grind of training everyday and holding up pretty good with no ill effects from the boxing, so I made a decision to give it a shot. But I told these guys I wasn’t going to comeback to say I made a comeback, If I’m going to comeback I would need a fair offer, and I wasn’t going to fight one or two times. I wanted to try and fight legit guys right away.

Keith: Do you know at what weight you‘ll box at.

Grant: Well I’m going to campaign at 168 but my first fight will be at 172. I’m looking to fight at Super-Middle. And right now between super middle and 175, I will see and find my comfort level. If need be and I have to go to 175, Then I’ll go to 175.

Keith; You sure picked a tough guy to comeback against in Thobela, He’s a three time Champ and his last 5 have been for titles.

Grant; A lot of people have been telling me that you know, (laugh) You know my reasoning for this fight, Thobela was world champion what a year or two ago and he is still world ranked as far as I understand it. If I want to comeback to this business then I need to know that I can comeback and compete at that level, therefore taking this guy on first may get me right back in the rankings. I signed a 2 year, six fight deal with Interbox and I’m not looking to wait and go the six fights before I get an opportunity at a world title. If I take legitimate guys right off from the outset and beat them, then I’m looking at two, three fights down the road for a shot.

Keith; You got some great fighters right now in the top ten and you train with one in Lucas.

Grant; Lucas an I are not with the same promoter, but we are on the same team, but you know my return had nothing to do with a Lucas fight. I do want to fight at home, travel if I must. Where ever. I fought on the road a lot when fighting out of Philly.

Keith: What do think about Super-Middle weights like Tito Mendoza.

Grant; Like who (laugh) Like who? Tito Mendoza, I don’t, not much cause I haven’t looked, I don’t know what he’s all about. If I have to step in with one of these guys then I’ll pay more attention. Then I’ll get the tapes to look at.

Keith: Something I was thinking is your life has been like a movie script. and with Wepner complaining that Rocky ain’t paying him, any plans on a story.

Grant: I saw that this week in the paper and that’s ridiculous, (laugh) my life is a story to say the least. I was a school teacher and I have a foundation called Otis Grant and Friends that help needy families in the Outer Montreal area. I think where the movie script comes in the whole thing the fact that I got hurt in a car wreck, being laid up in a coma for seven days, and being able to bounce back from that, now I’m getting back into this business. People say “you’re crazy,” you have a university education you should get a regular job. But I look at this return as a business opportunity for me. A chance for me to make more money, my earning potential in the ring far outweighs anything I can make working 9-5. So that was one of the reasons, its a short contract two years. I’m thirty-five and this was the time I was going to be retired so we will see.

Keith; At the time of the accident your daughter and fighter Hercules Kyvelos were in the car. You did something very courageous to protect her and Herc. You swerved the car to take the impact on your side instead of head on.

Grant: Yeah, I had my daughter and Hercules Kyvelos in the car, it was either take the impact head on and risk everyone being hurt or you take the impact on my side and save my daughter and my friend. I swerved the car and took the impact on my side. My left side was injured primarily my shoulder, all my ribs broken on the left side and I had a punctured lung on the left side. Those were the worse injuries. Its something that was a spur of the moment decision, if I ever had to do it again to save my child I’ll do it in a heartbeat.

Keith; Are you and Hercules Kyvelos still close.

Grant: Yes, matter of fact my brother and I train Herc and are involved in training and management a little with Herc. We start getting him ready for his fight with Margarito in January.

Keith; What was your take on Tarver/Jones, since your last fight was with Roy Jones, Jr.

Grant; You know after that loss to Roy he invited me to training camp and I started getting him ready to win the unified title over Johnson. And I had got back home maybe three days before the accident. Right when I got back home from training camp. I take my hat off to the guy. I thank God for Roy everyday, to that point in my life the fight with him was my biggest payday fight. And then having something happen to me as tragic as what happened, had I not had that fight, and got that payday my life might have turnout different. That little nest egg is what pulled us through. It got me through the tough times until I could start doing things. A lot of people were saying that Roy was picking on a middleweight, but Roy gave me an opportunity that people don’t get all the time, I had a chance to move up two weight classes from being middleweight champ. Fight Roy for his title, you didn’t have to ask me twice. I think Roy should move up in weight. I don’t know what fight Tarver thinks he was in, he only won the first and second round, otherwise he didn’t do much. Because of the weight loss it wasn’t the Roy Jones everyone is used to seeing. He should have beat up on him some more because Tarver talks a lot. He talks a good game, he talks, he talks, he talks, he has to be quiet.

Keith; Watch out I’m going to write that and Tarver might be calling you out in Montreal next week.

Grant; That’s all right, anybody can call me out, let me get one or two under my belt and if he wants to call on me, call on me. Anyone its all right. You know I think Thobela thinks he is in for an easy time, but he’s going to be surprised. I could have came back and fought any bum on the corner but what is that going to do for me. I need to fight a guy that’s going to do something for me right away.

At this point we concluded the interview.

In a post script to the Mendoza comment: Yosvani Oliva reached Tito Mendoza today who responded:
“Of Course… He was already a champion and now its me at the top and I deserve an opportunity to vie for a world title. However, if that opportunity doesn’t come, I’ll have to wait. How about an elimination bout between Grant and I? The winner deserves a shot at the title…”

Here’s to hoping the Magic is still with Otis. He signifies all that is right, not only in the sport but in life and fatherhood.