The fight night crowd streams into Martin's West. Funk and rock rumble from the speakers: Rick James' bass thumping through "Super Freak;" Blondie doing early white-girl rap in "Rapture;" the bouncy Go-Gos proclaiming, "We Got The Beat!"
2 "I think I can be champion material," he says.
On the ropes
The fight's beginning is a nightmare. Coleman attacks and takes the first round. In the second round, Griffin is tagged with a solid shot to his head. Coleman backs him onto the ropes, all the time swinging, trying to penetrate his defense. Perhaps a dozen blows fall, unanswered. Griffin stays on the ropes, hands up, arms tucked in close.
"I had no reason to stay on the ropes," he says later. "I don't know why I did. After a few seconds, I was OK. I should have moved. I was just being lazy."
He looks like a fighter in trouble, holding on, fighting through the pain. A head shot can put you in a mental twilight zone. It can be deadly. The brain rattles around in the skull like a Ping-Pong ball. Arteries and vessels can tear or shear, causing bruising, blood clots. Nothing that extreme happens, yet Griffin knows he can not show any sign of being hurt.
"You try to keep a straight face, like nothing happened," he says. "See, if you let your opponent know, no matter how tired he is, he might be ready to fall on his face, but soon as you show him you're hurt, he's going to get energy from somewhere."
Coleman continues to press his advantage. Griffin retreats. This should not be happening. Griffin is a proven winner. He went 19-1 as an amateur, and won his first 11 pro bouts. He is six years younger than Coleman. Still, he loses the second round. Then he loses the third.
Quiet and shy
With his quick hands, Ed Griffin could have been a drummer like his father. But he only toyed with the idea. He wasn't that interested in boxing either, though he followed the careers of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas "The Hit Man" Hearns, Hector "Macho" Comacho back in the 1980s.
He grew up around the corner from Mack Lewis' gym, went to Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School with his cousin, Richard Burton.
"When he was young, he was real quiet. He wasn't, like, the most aggressive person," says Burton. "Even with girls he was quiet, shy like. I had to teach him how to rap to women."
They called him "Sniffin' Griffin" because of his sinus problems. Later, he became "Special Ed," a name also used by a rapper. He rode dirt bikes, searched for the one thing worth a sacrifice.
A conversation with a substitute teacher at Lake Clifton High School led him to the old gym at Broadway and Eager streets. At first, he couldn't find it. There are no address numbers, posters or photographs, only a barred iron gate and a scarred white door. Curiosity pulled him inside.
"I thought that boxing and fighting on the street was the same, at the time. But come to find out, when I got in that ring, I realized that it's not the same. A guy who walks in from the street cannot hit a guy who trains every day in the gym," he says. "But I didn't realize that. I figured I could beat any one of them guys. But I learned pretty quickly."
He took to the challenge, which was no surprise. When he finds his niche, he locks onto it, gives himself over to its regimen. Burton recalls many mornings when the front door slamming shut around 4 a.m. disturbed his sleep; that was Ed, heading out to do his roadwork.
What is surprising is that he chose boxing. He didn't grow up fighting, wasn't a troublemaker, says his father, Edward Griffin Sr., an electrician at Sparrows Point. Explosions were rare. Burton has to go back to their days at Harris Elementary to find one.
"I was a safety patrol, and all the little gang members were jealous," says Burton, who is three years older than Griffin.
The gang chased Burton to his grandmother's house, where he and Griffin lived. They cornered Burton in the vestibule. Lucky for him, Griffin was home.
"I came out there, found out what was going on, and that was it," Griffin says matter-of-factly about the childhood exploit. "I was kind of mad because, of course, that was my cousin. I hit the one guy, and the other guys just basically ran."
From then on, says Burton, no one at school bothered them.
By the fourth round, the crowd senses something wrong. Even the true believers know Griffin is way behind. One judge has him losing the first three rounds. Lose the fourth and only a knockout will save the bout. A few voices begin to chant -- "Ed-die; Ed-die; Ed-die" -- as if their words can bring victory.
But Griffin does not respond. Is it because of the four-month layoff between fights, the extra pounds he had to put on for Coleman, the three-car fender bender last night on the Beltway? Or is he simply too disciplined, too much under control to be carried away by the emotions swirling outside the ring? He has seen fighters get knocked out after a chanting crowd pumped them up and made them lose their concentration.
He stays calm, thinking, "I'll get him."