NEW YORK -- Lennox Lewis said before last night's heavyweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden that if Michael Grant tried to dictate the action by pressing forward, "it would be a short night."
With two seconds left in the second round, Grant was struggling to get off the canvas in a vain attempt to beat referee Arthur Mercante Jr.'s 10-count, and it was apparent that Lewis had delivered on his promise in front of 17,324 at the Garden.
Lewis (36-1-1, 28 knockouts) retained his World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles and earned $10 million for the bout; Grant (31-1, 22 KOs) earned $4 million.
In the second round, the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Lewis drove Grant's head viciously upward with a savage right uppercut, after which the challenger's 6-7, 250-pound body sank to the canvas for the third and final time.
Lewis already had sent Grant to the canvas with a chopping right midway through the first round, but as he did after two first-round knockdowns in his previous fight -- a 10th-round KO of Andrew Golota -- Grant staggered back to his feet.
But Lewis continued his assault. Another right hand forced Grant to take a standing eight count. Before the first round was over, Grant would go down once more -- this time from a left-right combination.
Grant, to his credit, showed grit, rising to his feet with two seconds left in the round.
"Between rounds, I felt pretty good for about 30 seconds," said Grant. "I was ready to go out and do what I had to do."
Said Lewis: "Grant had been fighting Class B fighters, but now, he's moved up to the A Class. I was surprised he kept coming at me. I knew then I had superior hand speed. Most of the time, I could see him winding up. I just had to hold my position.
"Every time I hit him, he went down, so I just kept hitting him. I knew it was only a matter of time. I brought my own two judges [his fists] this time."
The bout was billed as "TWO BIG," due to the fighters' combined size (13 feet, 497 pounds).
Lewis, whose November victory over Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas earned him England's first heavyweight championship since Bob Fitzsimmons in the 1800s, simply had too much experience, power and savvy for Grant.
Grant started a pre-fight glove controversy by saying the Reyes brand of gloves Lewis had the right to choose as defending champion did not fit his left hand.
But in a palm-to-palm comparison at Wednesday's pre-fight news conference, Lewis demonstrated there was little difference, if any, between the size of their hands.
Last night, Grant got a face-to-fist demonstration. Repeatedly.
In the months since his November decision over the 37-year-old Holyfield earned him the undisputed heavyweight title, Lewis, 34, had gone from being the younger, inexperienced challenger to the older champ going up against a younger, taller fighter who is seven years his junior.
Lewis had all three titles after the Holyfield fight, but a federal judge ruled that Lewis would have to give up the World Boxing Association title because he reached a contract with promoter Don King for signing to fight Grant instead of signing for a title defense against the highest available WBA defender.
Despite his success, Lewis' struggle for acceptance in America has continued, with him being the antithesis to the heavyweight division's more sinister characters, such as Mike Tyson.
Growing increasingly concerned about his place in boxing history, Lewis needed to "establish himself as a strong, dominant fighter so that the public can take notice" against Grant, according to his trainer, Emmanuel Steward.
He did just that.
Lewis set out to take away Grant's confidence early and expose his relative inexperience, and he accomplished the task.
Lewis next plans to fight July 15 in England, possibly against South African Francois Botha, before facing David Tua in America in the fall.
On the undercard last night, England's Paul Ingles rallied from a ninth-round knockdown to retain his IBF crown with an 11th-round knockout of Brooklyn's Junior Jones, who said after the fight that he is considering retiring.
Ingles (23-1, 16 KOs), whose only loss was a knockout against Naseem Hamed, dropped Jones (47-5, 27 KOs) with a series of punches before referee Steve Smoger waved the end at 1: 16 of the 11th round.
Arturo Gatti (32-4) made his welterweight debut with his 28th knockout, a second-round KO of Eric Jakubowski (20-7) of Whiting, Ind.
Gatti is seeking a fight with Oscar De La Hoya, should De La Hoya get past Sugar Shane Mosley on June 17 in Los Angeles.
South Africa's 6-foot featherweight, Phillip "Timebomb" Ndou, retained his World Boxing Association Continental title by stopping Mexico's Edgar Barcenas (18-5-3) before the 11th round.
Ndou, in his U.S. debut, moved to 22-1 with 22 knockouts.
Former 1996 Olympic champ Wladimir Klitschko (33-1) of the Ukraine retained his WBA Intercontinental crown with his 31st knockout, this one in the second round over Arizona's David Bostice (22-2-1).
Unheralded featherweight Scott Harrison (10-1-1, three) of Scotland hammered out a unanimous 10-round featherweight decision over Tracy Patterson (63-8-1) of New Paltz, N.Y.
A former WBC super bantamweight and IBF champ, Patterson, 35, had his right eye swollen shut. He announced his retirement after the loss.