Fighting for just the fourth time as a heavyweight, Tomasz Adamek, the transplanted Pole who has become a crowd favorite at the Prudential Center in Newark, already is recognized as the fourth-best heavyweight in the world. It's hard to say whether that is a credit to Adamek or a commentary on boxing's supposed marquee division.

"The heavyweight division is sad right now," said 38-year-old Michael Grant, who faces Adamek Saturday night at the Pru. "I just say, don't lose hope because I know the belts are over the water right now, but they will definitely be back."

No doubt, the 6-7 Grant (46-3, 34 KOs) would like to be the one to wrest the titles from the Germany-based Ukrainian brother act Wladimir Klitschko (IBF and WBO) and Vitali Klitschko (WBC) or from England's David Haye (WBA). But Adamek (41-1, 27 KOs) is maybe one win away from putting himself in line to challenge for a belt.

Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said the Klitschkos won't be available until next year because they each have a fight scheduled in the next couple months, but she is working with HBO to lure Haye out of hiding. "If we can get him to return a phone call," Duva said.

Adamek is a former light-heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion who would have been a good fit in the heavyweight division about 25 years ago when the best fighters were close to his 6-11/2 height and weighed in the 215- 225-pound range. But now, he's considered a small man in a division ruled by Goliaths like the Klitschkos, who, like Grant, are 6-7.

Referring to Adamek's last two opponents, Grant said, "I don't take anything away from Adamek. He's a heck of a light-heavyweight champion. But I'm an elite fighter. I'm not like a Jason Estrada or a Chris Arreola, that's not my level . . . My ability is basically what it is. I'm not banking on size and strength."

Actually, Grant's size and strength are what he has going for him. He's an athletic big man. But he's demonstrated in the past that his chin doesn't match his stature. It has betrayed him in all three losses, which were stoppages.

If Adamek can become the fourth man to stop Grant, it would be a powerful argument that he deserves a title shot. "I'm ready to fight," Adamek said. "When I'm healthy, I am very quick. I am dangerous in the ring. I've been training very hard for 11 weeks. Size is no bother to me."

Prediction: Adamek by TKO in the 7th. Grant hasn't been very active, and Adamek will keep coming all night with so much on the line.

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