The last time Baltimore welterweight Vincent Pettway fought an unknown rival 15 months ago, it proved a near disaster.
Augustin Caballero knocked out Pettway in the fourth round, but it was ultimately ruled no-decision by the Maryland Athletic Commission when Caballero was detected for using drugs.
Tonight at Painters Mill Theater, Pettway (30-3, 26 KOs), looking to climb back into the world ratings, meets another mystery man, Stephan Johnson (11-3-1, 6 KOs) of Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 10-round co-feature.
Two former junior lightweight champions, Juan Solis of Providence, R.I., and Calvin Grove, of Coatesville, Pa., meet in the second 10-round bout to be aired on the USA cable network.
"All I know about Johnson is that he lost to a couple of good fighters in Kevin Pompey and Roy Jones," Pettway said. "But I don't know if he's a boxer or puncher. There just aren't any tapes available on this guy."
Veteran New York fight manager Joe Scorcia was only too happy to fill Pettway in on his 22-year-old ring protege.
"Stephan is a fabulous fighter," said Scorcia, who once managed former light-heavyweight champion Eddie Gregory.
"We're not going to Baltimore just to pick up a few bucks. Heck, I would have paid for a chance to fight Pettway. He's just a stepping stone. We'll beat Pettway, and, six months from now, I'll be looking for Stephan to fight [WBA champion] Aaron Davis for the title."
It's easy for Scorcia to brag about his fighter, but he says he is not alone in his praise of Johnson.
"Last summer, I sent Stephan to Washington to spar with [WBC champion] Simon Brown, who was getting ready to defend his title against Tyrone Trice," said Scorcia. "You don't send a kid to be a punching bag for a banger like Brown, but I knew he could handle himself. After a couple of weeks, Simon called me and said, 'I'm really impressed. Where did you find this kid?' "
Scorcia found Johnson as an unheralded amateur boxer.
"His trainer, Freddie Hernandez, told me he had a kid I might be interested in managing one day as a pro," Scorcia said.
"I didn't pay any attention until they chose Johnson to be a last-minute replacement on an international amateur boxing team touring Europe. The kid was unpolished and had only four or five fights under his belt, but he went over there and beat four seasoned European fighters. That convinced me he was worth my time and money."
Top billing: Vincent Pettway (30-3-1, 26 KOs), Baltimore, vs. Stephan Johnson (11-3-1, 6 KOs), Brooklyn, N.Y., welterweights, 10 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: Tonight, first bout 8 o'clock
Tickets: $30 ringside, $20 reserved.
Co-promoters: Stuart Satosky and Frank Gelb.