Although he is now 39 years old, it is still hard not to view Elvis Grant Phillips as a wunderkind in boxing. While still in his twenties he had trained two championship caliber fighters, Richard Sandoval and Juan “Kid” Meza, and managed Luis Santana through his controversial junior middleweight title reign.
Besides managing several other world champions, including Iran Barkley, Lonnie Smith, Paul Vaden and Leslie Stewart at various stages of their careers, he also founded a company called Grant, which manufactures boxing equipment and athletic apparel. In 1998, Phillips sued Everlast for conducting a smear campaign against Grant in order to protect its market share of its business.
“It was like David vs. Goliath,” said Phillips, who most recently saw his fighter Cosme Rivera get stopped by Zab Judah in three rounds on the undercard of Felix Trinidad-Winky Wright on May 14 in Las Vegas.
Phillips has always had an entrepreneurial zeal. While visiting his father, a well known Los Angeles boxing figure named Jimmy Montoya in California as a youngster, he would purchase Mexican boxing equipment and then sell it for a significant profit on the East Coast. Finally, in 1994, he decided to start manufacturing the products himself in Mexican factories.
The Grant label currently makes and distributes boxing gloves, headgear, cups, punching bags, robes, shorts and other clothing.
Through his vast connections in the boxing industry, the first three fighters he had promoting his equipment were Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe. Among other luminaries who use or have used his equipment are Roy Jones, Laila Ali and Lamon Brewster.
Nobody can ever dispute that Phillips, who grew up in both New York and Los Angeles, has an abundance of chutzpah. Being around boxing all of his life, it’s hard to imagine him being any other way.
“As a kid, I remember playing hooky from school and sitting on Don King’s desk when he had his office in New York,” said Phillips. “At the same time I was going to Gleason’s Gym trying to be a fighter, and working with [trainer] Don Turner. He had me holding the mitts for [tough lightweight Julio ‘El] Diablito’ Valdez.”
Phillips, who eventually had 22 amateur bouts, and considers himself a savvy, seasoned and streetwise New Yorker, was as surprised as anyone to learn that his doorman was not who he purported to be.
With a busted-up nose and an abundance of information about boxing, the doorman had passed himself off for years as former welterweight champion Freddie “Red” Cochrane. It was only after a feature was written about his “passing,” that Phillips and so many others learned that they were duped by an imposter. “He knew his sh–, and had the look,” said Phillips. “He got away with being Freddie Cochrane for many years.”
Phillips likes to think he is too clever to be fooled again, and is more careful in all of his business dealings. He has recently hired several executives from other major firms, and hopes to bring Grant to another level in the next year or two. He’ll do that, he says, by continuing to do what he does best: being a ubiquitous presence and refusing to take no for an answer.
“I’ve been involved in boxing and business on some level for 28 years,” he explained. “I’m also hoping to get into the jewelry business. I have a lot of fish frying, and get offered lots of deals, but I don’t want to bastardize the Grant name with too many products.”
Phillips, who no one will ever accuse of not having a healthy ego, says Floyd Mayweather has called him the “Versace of Boxing.” It’s a description that suits him just fine. But all of Phillips efforts are not just a result of his seemingly boundless and blind ambition. They are for his immediate family, which consists of his 14-year-old son Elliott, who he describes as “my shadow,” and his wife of five years, Isis, who hails from Culiacan, Mexico, the hometown of Julio Cesar Chavez.
“Fatherhood and family life bring me much more satisfaction than anything else,” said Phillips. “I’m grooming my son to take over what I’m hoping will be a vast empire someday. I was always taught to dream big, and my son is not afraid to do the same. I always felt that God had a plan for me: to be a rich young man who could help others. I’ve attained everything I set out to do in life, and I still have a lot of years ahead of me. I love boxing, I love business, I love charity work, and I love my family. I’m a pretty lucky guy.”