The Eddie Van Kirk-Victor Davis fight for the Maryland welterweight title is just about a month away (March 4), but a stormy news conference yesterday almost erupted into a tag-team match, with Van Kirk, Davis and welterweight-in-waiting Vincent Pettway exchanging angry words.
One might suspect that veteran promoter Don Elbaum, a man not foreign to hyperbole, had rehearsed carefully the fighters in an effort to generate ticket sales for the first boxing card at the Baltimore Arena since Pettway outpointed Horace Shufford there three years ago.
But this was not theater. Van Kirk and Davis truly dislike each other. And Pettway, waiting to challenge the winner if he survives his semifinal test against Kato Wilson, loses no love on either of them.
They took turns slinging insults at one another, with their managers soon joining in.
"Remember how Ray Robinson toyed with Jake LaMotta, the 'Raging Bull?' " said Davis. "I'm going to cut up Van Kirk the same way. He's just a street fighter, made to order for a clever boxer like me."
Countered Van Kirk, the popular Baltimore club fighter: "You never know which Victor will show up. He can be a real dog or fight like a lion. But it really doesn't matter. I'm much stronger physically. I'll eat him up on the inside. He won't be able to walk for a week when I get through with him."
Pettway said Van Kirk, despite his brash talk, has refused to fight him for bragging rights in Baltimore.
"Eddie always talks a good fight, but never backs it up," he said. "We've offered him contracts he's refused to sign. I hope Victor beats him so I can get a rematch, but I'm looking to take the state championship belt from either one."
Davis stopped Pettway in the ninth round on cable TV in Philadelphia last April, a bout that was rated USA Network's "Fight of the Year."
That victory elevated Davis to No. 6 in the International Boxing Federation rankings, but he quickly dropped from the ranking after receiving a painful lesson from left-handed Darryl Lattimore.
"I've booked 33 fights for Victor, but that was my only real mistake," said Adrian Davis, his father, a former welterweight who serves as both manager and trainer. "We'd signed for Lattimore before we met Pettway and had to go through with it. But once we had the ranking, we should have been looking for a title bout not just another hard fight."
Both Davis and Pettway, who was stopped by Stephan Johnson at Painters Mill in December, are looking to climb back into the rankings.
"Some people don't know this, but we had Pettway lined up to fight Simon Brown for the IBF title before he lost to Davis," said Elbaum. "That cost him a $250,000 payday. Now we hope Pettway can rebuild his career."
Not to mention Elbaum, who lost a court battle for the promotional rights to Brown, now being employed by Don King.
"Simon is going to lose his title to Maurice Blocker in Las Vegas, March 18," Elbaum said.
Pass the sour grapes, please.