By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002
TAMPA -- After his rematch with Saul Montana, China Smith sat before the media and ticked off the amount of weight he can bench press at the request of trainer Henry Grooms, who claimed that Smith was stronger than any of the Bucs and was "so strong it was unreal."
Grooms said Smith could be better than former Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight champion Leon Spinks. He called his fighter a warrior, a great athlete and the kind of guy who made other heavyweights "quit" during sparring in Michigan.
Just imagine if Smith had won Saturday.
Instead, Smith's boxing career may be over. On national television for the first time and with a chance to avenge his only loss, Smith fought flatter than the tires on his bandwagon as Montana knocked him out in the third round at the Sun Dome.
The former high school football star and top recruit from Sarasota, who also was knocked out by Montana in the seventh round of their first fight, might want to look into a return to that sport. Smith (23-2, 22 KOs) didn't rule out doing so, and hesitated before saying he wants to continue what has quickly become a forgettable fight career.
Stunned by a right hand at the end of the second round, Smith wobbled back to his corner before Montana (37-11, 32 knockouts) finished what he started in the third. Knocked down three times in the round, Smith's chance for redemption was called to a halt by referee Max Parker.
"I lost the fight," Smith said. "No excuses. I just lost the fight."
Smith clearly wanted to avoid another punch-fest and establish his jab early, and may have won the first round. But once Montana got in the big right hand, the haymakers started flying, though Smith was unable to dish out the same punishment he received like he did the first fight.
"The opportunity tonight was a golden opportunity, and he failed," Grooms said. "I know China Smith is an athlete, and I know he has heart and he's a courageous guy. But something failed him tonight, and failed him last time.
Or maybe just dumb, said Montana trainer Jimmy Montoya. He said Smith was rushed into competition over his head and that his fighter was disrespected. Montana was the National Boxing Association champ, but Smith and only Smith was on the fight posters, entitled "Revenge".
"They were dumb," Montoya said. "Stupidly dumb. They made him angry."
In the other televised fight, super-middleweight Jerson Ravelo (12-0) won a unanimous decision over George Walton. Walton (11-2) was knocked down in the fourth round and Ravelo shook him up a handful of other times to win 78-73, 77-74 and 79-72 on the scorecards.
In Liverpool, England, Olympic super-heavyweight champion Audley Harrison knocked out 32-year-old American Wade Lewis in the second round.
-- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.