They call Pettway 'Mister' around Mack Lewis' gym No. 9-ranked boxer is fighting tonight

December 04, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

The young fighter, wearing boxing gloves that resembled pillows on his skinny arms, walked through the crowded gym and politely asked "Mr. Pettway" to help with the taping.

"Mr. Pettway" lent his support and then watched approvingly as the youngster engaged in a lively sparring session with another 90-pound tyro.

"When they start calling me 'Mister,' then I realize how long I've been coming here," said Vincent Pettway, 26, who has been haunting Mack Lewis' Broadway gym for 16 years.

"I can remember being just like that kid, looking up to older fighters like Alvin Anderson, Vernon Mason and George Chaplin. Now the kids are watching me, hoping I'll pass along some wisdom."

Like Anderson and Mason, who were world-ranked welterweights in the mid-1960s, Pettway (32-4) is ranked No. 9 by the International Boxing Federation in the junior middleweight division.

While campaigning for a title shot, he will remain active, fighting Frank Montgomery (17-6), of Philadelphia, at the Pikesville Armory tonight. The undercard begins at 8.

Pettway remembers being in awe of Mason and Anderson, with whom he occasionally sparred while an amateur. Mason now serves as a part-time trainer, tutoring the young fighters in the gym.

"You could learn just by watching Vernon spar," Pettway said. "He was such a smart fighter, always thinking about the next move. He never just went in there flailing away. If you made a mistake, you paid for it.

"Even today, sometimes I get frustrated and lose my cool. Vernon will pull me aside and tell me to be patient. My time will come."

Pettway, who serves as a model and recreation supervisor for the Merry-Go-Round clothing chain, has been tantalizingly close to getting a championship fight in recent years. But knockout losses to Augustine Caballero, Victor Davis and Stephan Johnson have kept him from taking the final step.

"My confidence was never shattered," said Pettway, coming off successive knockout victories over Eddie Van Kirk and Juan Rondon. "I know what mistakes I made in those fights. I know God is watching over me and, as long as I have my boxing skills, I'll accomplish my goal. Opportunity is knocking for me, but I can't afford another misstep."

In Montgomery, Pettway faces a well-seasoned boxer who has fought tougher competition. Four of his six losses were to former champions Gary Hinton, Joe Manley, Lonnie Smith and, most recently, Buddy McGirt, who upset Simon Brown to capture the WBC welterweight crown last Friday.

"They stopped our fight with McGirt in the ninth round," said Montgomery's manager, Charles Ramey, recalling the March match in upstate New York. "Frank was laying on the ropes, not really hurt. I think McGirt was as surprised as we were."

In his last fight, Montgomery knocked Philadelphia rival Tom Hammond from the unbeaten ranks.

"Frank is a beautiful fighter, just needing a break," said Ramey. "I think Pettway is in for a surprise -- a real big one -- if we catch him on the chin."

NOTE: Tickets, priced at $30, $25 and $20, can be purchased at the door.

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