For more than 30 years, Woodrow Wilson Larroseaux has been battling boxing commissions, judges and referees in behalf of his professional fighters.
But when Larroseaux brings Venezuelan Juan Rondon to the Pikesville Armory tonight to fight Baltimore junior middleweight Vincent Pettway, he will face a problem for which he has yet to find a solution.
"It's bad enough dealing with questionable officials," said Larroseaux, "but now Rondon and I have to fight a ghost."
Sensing disbelief on the part of his listener, Larroseaux documented his strange case.
"Since I've made a lot of friends and enemies in boxing over the years, I always check the latest obituaries in Ralph Citro's ring record book," he said. "In Citro's 1991 edition, I saw the name of one of my arch-rivals, Mack Lewis, who managed three guys -- Jerry Brewer, Vernon Mason and Alvin Anderson -- that fought my former welterweight, Miguel Barreto.
"But now I've discovered that reports of Mr. Lewis' death were premature. He's close to 70, and still kicking. What's more, he'll be in Pettway's corner, still haunting me. This is probably a job for 'Ghostbusters,' " said Larroseaux, laughing.
In past visits here, Larroseaux, a New York native now based in Miami, was not so humorous. He's still seething over a loss Barreto suffered to Brewer in 1967.
"Barreto was ranked as high as third in the world," Larroseaux said, "and Brewer was just an ordinary club fighter. But somehow he got a decision over my guy. We had a rematch, and Barreto beat Brewer so bad, they couldn't steal it from him."
Larroseaux remembers confronting one of the former Baltimore judges before Barreto fought Jack Tillman here in 1972.
"I pulled this judge aside before the fight and say, 'Look, I don't want a gift for Barreto, and it's not that you give bad decisions or anything. But just try trusting your eyes for a change.' "
"Well, Tillman wins a split decision, and the judge I talked to gave it to him by a point. I told him, 'Thanks, at least, for making it close.' "
Larroseaux says he understands why it is so difficult for a fighter to win on the road, barring a knockout.
"A judge or referee doesn't have his own fighter to bring in the picture," he said. "But they still like to work regular, and they don't want all the hometown managers and trainers screaming at them, so they kind of play ball.
"It's the same in big-time boxing," said Larroseaux, who once worked with promoter Bob Arum and later with Madison Square Garden as a boxing adviser.
"Referees and judges enjoy expense-paid trips to Thailand and Japan. They don't want to alienate a [promoter] Don King or a [World Boxing Council president] Jose Sulaiman. They know who is supposed to win, so they don't want [to] rock the boat."
Eventually, Larroseaux returned to the subject of Rondon, who boasts a respectable 22-10 record, but has lost his last nine fights, according to Citro.
"How can you believe Citro's record-keeping when he made a ghost of Mack Lewis?" asked Larroseaux. "Rondon had two wins in 1988 that Citro never included. Besides, he's fought much tougher competition than Pettway, losing to people like Glenwood Brown, Mark Breland and Mauro Martelli.
"I don't think Pettway is that tough, anyway. His chin is very questionable. But fighting a ghost in his corner, now that's something to worry about."
Facts and figures
Where: Pikesville Armory
Time: 8 tonight
Main bout: Juan Rondon-Vincent Pettway, junior middleweights, 10 rounds
Tickets: $30, $25, $20
Information: 481-6000, 727-0885