Two twists have been added to spice the Vincent Pettway-Eddie Van Kirk match for the state welterweight title at the Baltimore Arena on March 4.
The payday each fighter receives will depend on the outcome, with the winner ($7,500) of the scheduled 12-round bout guaranteed more than the loser ($5,000), in a special deal arranged by promoter Don Elbaum.
With both fighters predicting early knockouts, it was a relatively easy sell for Elbaum. Van Kirk's manager, Tony Pulaski, produced a dummy copy of a March 4 sports page from The Sun with a headline proclaiming, "Van Kirk KOs Pettway in First Round."
The second twist has Van Kirk choosing Adrian Davis as his trainer. Davis is the father and manager-trainer of Laurel welterweight Victor Davis, who originally was scheduled to fight Van Kirk at the Arena. But Victor Davis underwent surgery for a detached retina in his right eye Thursday and will be sidelined from three to six months.
"I still want Victor to fight Van Kirk when his eye heals," said Adrian Davis. "That's why I want to get Van Kirk in tiptop shape to beat Pettway.
"I don't want Victor to fight Pettway again," he said. "He beat him last April [stopping Pettway in the ninth round], and we should have made it right back on TV, when it was a hot topic and for a lot more money. I think Van Kirk will whip Pettway, too. All he has to do is find his chin once or twice."
Van Kirk did not see any conflict of interest in his unusual alliance with the Davis camp.
"To me, fighting is a business," he said. "Adrian is one of the best trainers in the state. All I need him to do is keep me focused. I have no trouble with the weight [a 147-pound limit]. I'm walking around now at 150."
For Van Kirk, 28, the fight is mostly for bragging rights in the gyms and neighborhood bars of Baltimore. For Pettway, 25, it is more of a matter of survival after successive losses to Davis and Stephan Johnson (a sixth-round KO) knocked him from the International Boxing Federation world rankings.
"It's important for me to win," said Pettway, "but I'm not treating it as a matter of life and death. I'm still young and I have only four losses in 36 fights. But this is more of a grudge match. Van Kirk has been ducking me for years. Now we can finally get it on."
Pettway expects more of a brawl than a boxing match with Van Kirk, who is known for his hellbent, walk-in style.
"He'll be swarming, trying to pin me against the ropes," Pettway said. "He'll be winging elbows and shoulders, but he'll get it back the same way. Tit for tat. I never expected this to happen so soon, but, believe me, I'll be ready for Van Kirk."