For Vincent Pettway, 1990 has been a year to forget.
"I really expected to be fighting for the welterweight title thi year," said the Baltimore boxer who battles Stephan Johnson of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 10-round co-feature at Painters Mill Theater in Owings Mills Tuesday night.
"I thought my career would be booming by now, and I'd b recognized all over town for having beaten a Mark Breland or Simon Brown for the title. Now I've put myself in a position where I can't afford to lose again."
Less than a year ago, Pettway, who turned 25 Friday, seemed poised to challenge for the 147-pound title.
He started 1990 by knocking out last-minute substitute Sammy Brooks in the first round, but in April suffered a staggering setback when he was stopped on cuts by state rival Victor Davis after nine close rounds.
The loss not only sidelined Pettway for six months as he twice underwent surgery to repair the scar tissue over his left eye, but also dropped him from the International Boxing Federation rankings. He had been rated as high as sixth after whipping Luis Santana in June 1989.
"I didn't think one tough loss should have cost me my ranking," he said. "My record [30-3,24 KOs] is better than most of the guys ahead of me.
"Besides," he added, "everyone who saw the Davis fight on television knew the decision was up for grabs when the doctor stopped it before the final round."
But longtime Pettway followers, including his veteran trainer-manager Mack Lewis, believe that Davis should never have been around as long as nine rounds.
"Vincent's temper cost him that fight," Lewis said. "He got
caught up in all the jive talk by the Davis family and didn't fight with his head. With old-time fighters, you could curse and spit at them, but they kept their cool. It's a lesson Vincent had to learn the hard way.
"I think he also got caught off guard because Davis was looking to pull out of the fight the night before. The promoter almost had to force him to go through with it."
Whatever the reasons, Pettway lost a fight he was expected to win and must re-establish his reputation as a bona fide contender.
"Vincent just stopped doing what got him in the rankings in the first place," said Lewis, who has been tutoring Pettway since the fighter was a 9-year-old. "You have to keep up a certain standard. In the past few months, Vincent has shown me in the gym that he's got that hunger back again."
In Johnson (11-3-1, 5 KOs), Pettway is fighting a foe he knows little about save for the small type in the ring record books.
The Brooklyn boxer lost to the only two name fighters he has fought. In June 1988, Johnson dropped a six-round decision to Kevin Pompey in Madison Square Garden. A year later, he was stopped by 1988 Olympic silver medalist Roy Jones.
"I tried to get tapes on Johnson, but there just aren't any available," Pettway said. "I've heard some people say he's a puncher and others tell me he's a boxer, but I'm not going to worry about it. I've got to beat this guy, no matter what. [Promoter] Stuart Satosky is talking about holding fights here every month. If I win impressively, I can keep fighting on my home turf. A couple of wins should put me back in the rankings, and this time there will be no slipping back."
Pettway and Johnson will share top billing on the USA cable show with a pair of former junior lightweight champions -- Calvin Grove of Coatesville, Pa., and Julian Solis of Providence, R.I. Grove (37-3, 24 KOs) is ranked 10th by the IBF. Solis (40-10, 20 KOs), who briefly reigned as the World Boxing Association champion 10 years ago, is unranked.
Local junior welterweight Eddie Van Kirk (20-6-1, 14 KOs) heads the undercard in an eight-round bout with Mike English (16-9,8 KOs) of Columbia, S.C.
Top billing: Vincent Pettway (30-3-1, 26 KOs), Baltimore, vs. Stephan Johnson (11-3-1, 6 KOs), Brooklyn, N.Y., welterweights, rounds; Calvin Grove (37-3, 24 KOs), Coatesville, Pa., vs. Julian Solis (40-10, 30 KOs), Providence, R.I., junior lightweights, 10 rounds.
Where: Painters Mill Theater, Owings Mills.
When: Tuesday, first bout 8 p.m.
Tickets: $30 ringside, $20 reserved.
Co-promoters: Stuart Satosky and Frank Gelb.