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BEST BOXER Minneapolis 2001 - "Steel" Will Grigsby

It probably says something about the Minnesota fight scene that the boxer who had the best year fought only once, was stripped of his title, and was twice arrested in highly unsavory circumstances. But the simple fact remains: St. Paul's "Steel" Will Grigsby is the slickest, most accomplished fighter to lace on the gloves in Minnesota in a long, long time. Outside the ring, the 30-year-old former International Boxing Federation junior flyweight champ had a rough 12 months, beginning with his arrest last May for allegedly staging pit-bull fights and ending with a February arrest for assault. But inside the ring, Grigsby demonstrated once again why Jim O'Hara, grand old man of Minnesota boxing and executive secretary of the state boxing board, once likened Grigsby to the legendary Willie Pep. In July, after losing the IBF title in 1999 to Mexican great Ricardo Lopez, Grigsby took a shot at the vacant World Boxing Organization title against the well-regarded contender Nelson Dieppa. Some observers worried Grigsby's confidence might be shaken by the spanking he received from Lopez. Others figured his outside-the-ring problems would distract him. They were wrong. In a 12-round decision, Grigsby demonstrated once again the fierce counterpunching and ring generalship that made him a champion in the first place. After the fight, Grigsby was stripped of the WBO belt for testing positive for marijuana (which, last we checked, was more likely to enhance appetite than performance). It remains to be seen whether Grigsby will get his personal life in order, but there's little doubt he is still the best boxer in these parts.

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