Brown back on his feet and on top of the ring

SIMON BROWN

January 23, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Simon Brown watched the desert sun pour through his window in his suite at the new MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas and pinched himself.

"I'm not supposed to be here," said the newly crowned World Boxing Council junior middleweight champion who defends his title Saturday against Australia's Troy Waters on the hotel's inaugural boxing card. "I'm supposed to be buried in my backyard in Mount Airy."

Figuratively, if not literally. Brown, 30, had been all but buried by boxing critics after losing his WBC welterweight title to Buddy McGirt on Nov. 29, 1991. He then sustained a series of injuries and surgery for a detached retina that twice forced him to cancel a championship match with Terry Norris, who was being called the world's best fighter "pound-for-pound."

When Brown declared himself fit to challenge for Norris' 154-pound crown last December, the oddsmakers made the Jamaican native a 30-1 underdog.

And when he left Norris stretched out on the canvas in the fourth round in Puebla, Mexico, it was hailed as 1993's major boxing upset. It was a stunning accomplishment to everyone but the winner and his new trainer, Adrian Davis of Laurel.

"I never believe in odds. Only God knows the outcome of a fight," said Brown, a religious man who also had supreme faith in his boxing ability.

"When I was out for nine months after my eye surgery, people confused me with a lot of other fighters," he said. "But Simon takes care of his body. No partying, no alcohol, no drugs. All my time was spent with my family or in the gym, keeping fit."

He insisted he was much less than his best the night he lost his welterweight title to McGirt, the result of extensive weight loss, a case of the flu and dehydration that kept him hospitalized five days after the fight. But these factors were dispelled by cynical ringside observers as typical alibis of a losing fighter.

"Anyone who knows Simon like I have since he was an amateur in Washington," said Davis, who replaced former middleweight champion Emile Griffith as Brown's trainer for the Norris bout, "realizes that wasn't the real Simon who fought McGirt.

"This man had successfully defended his welterweight title eight times. But he had to lose 30 pounds in less than a month to get down to 147 to fight McGirt, and his handlers had him sparring the day before the fight. Crazy stuff," said Davis, a feared welterweight himself in the '70s.

For Brown (40-2, 30 KOs), a perfectionist who believes in reaching a symbiotic relationship with his trainer, Davis marks his fourth boxing instructor, after Pepe Correa, Teddy Atlas and Griffith.

"Simon used to come to my gym in Hyattsville as a teen-ager before he turned pro, and he always liked my training methods," said Davis, who also taught current unbeaten lightweight contender Sharmba Mitchell and is now working with heavyweight contender Razor Ruddock.

"He gets easily frustrated, but Simon likes the idea of my getting in the ring and demonstrating how to throw different punches and make certain moves rather than just talking.

"I'm an old-fashioned teacher who believes the great fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson and Johnny Bratton combined offense with defense. If you throw a jab, it doesn't mean you allow your opponent to counter."

Brown put Davis' teachings to quick use against Norris, stunning everyone by flooring the champion in the first round with a ramrod left jab.

"It's not an ordinary jab," Brown said. "I throw it behind a quick step, giving it more power. Knocking him down was a 'two-point' round for me."

It also removed Norris' cloak of invincibility.

"People had built Norris into a monster because he knocked out Meldrick Taylor and Donald Curry and sent Sugar Ray Leonard into retirement," Davis said. "All these guys were over-the-hill, well past their fighting peak.

"But I preferred watching tapes when Norris fought Waters last year. Waters isn't a big puncher, but he dropped Norris in the first round. It showed me Norris is wide open, no defense. And that's why I knew Simon would knock him out."

But Brown is not basking in his renewed celebrity status. He supports ring chronicler A. J. Liebling's premise that "fighters fight," and so finds himself defending his title only six weeks after standing over Norris.

"The great ones like Robinson and Willie Pep fought twice a month or more," Brown said. "Of course, there was no pay-per-view back then. But even today, you have a great champion like Julio Cesar Chavez climbing in the ring 10 times a year.

"I'm like Chavez. I love to fight. When I'm forced to lay off, it takes me a long time to regain my fighting edge. It's easier to stay busy. They had Norris penciled in to fight on this [Saturday's] show, so I'm just taking his place."

Brown's immediate goal is to unify the junior-middleweight title, with the winner of the Gianfranco Rosi-Vincent Pettway International Boxing Federation championship match March 4, as his next likely foe.

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