Pettway wins one for Baltimore with IBF championship

September 18, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- For the past few months, Vincent Pettway has been dutifully recording his life as a professional fighter on his home computer for future publication.

Yesterday afternoon at the MGM Grand Garden, the 28-year-old junior middleweight from Baltimore provided a glorious new chapter, winning the International Boxing Federation title by knocking out Italy's Gianfranco Rosi at 2:59 of the fourth round.

In command from the opening bell, Pettway floored the 37-year-old Rosi in the second round with an overhand right and finished the job in the fourth with a left-right-left combination.

The final left hook put Rosi flat on his back. The champion managed to raise himself to a kneeling position, but watched with a glazed expression as referee Jay Nady counted him out.

After being helped back to his corner, Rosi said, "I don't know what or who hit me, a left or a right. But you don't have a chance to recover from the kind of punch he hit me with."

Meanwhile, the celebration had begun in the new champion's corner.

"This is like fulfilling a lifelong dream," said Pettway, after sobbing with joy, his well-muscled body shaking with the emotion of the historic moment.

He had become Baltimore's first champion since Harry Jeffra ruled the featherweight division in 1940.

"I've trained and fought for 20 years to get here, but I'm more happy for Mr. Mack. He's waited over 50 years for this moment."

Mr. Mack is 75-year-old boxing guru Mack Lewis, who has trained and managed hundreds of professional fighters, including world-ranked contenders Larry Middleton, Alvin Anderson and Vernon Mason. But all fell short of championship caliber.

"It's been a long time," Lewis said with a satisfied smile. "But since Vincent was 14, I felt he had it in him to become a champion.

"He showed me exceptional boxing skills for someone so young, and he always had guts. He always goes into the ring like a guy going for a lunch date. No worries, just a look of supreme confidence. He never asked who he was fighting or why. He'd just do his job."

This second time around, Pettway showed little or no respect for Rosi.

In their first match, March 4, he allowed the awkward champion to dictate the fight. Rosi was leading on all three cards in the sixth round when an accidental butt opened a deep gash over his left eye, ending the bout. The fight was ruled a technical draw, and the IBF ordered a rematch.

"I listened to my corner, and took it right to him this time," said Pettway. "Everyone said if I kept Rosi on the defensive, I'd beat him."

Pettway did the job so quickly and thoroughly that his wife, Katherine, was not even in her ringside seat when it ended.

In the first round, Pettway, 153 pounds, immediately put Rosi, 154, on the defensive, shaking him with a hard right.

Rosi (57-4-1, 17 knockouts), who had acted cockily before the fight, all but dismissing Pettway while talking of a title showdown with World Boxing Council champion Terry Norris, quickly began retreating.

Pettway (37-4-1, 30 KOs) also won the second round on all three cards by a 10-9 margin. It would have been 10-8 as a result of the knockdown, but Nady penalized Pettway earlier for hitting on the break.

"Once I put him down, I knew it was only a matter of time," Pettway said. "On the knockout, I caught him first with a hook, just a little short. Then I missed with an uppercut, but the last hook was right on the money."

Lewis never doubted the outcome, even if the Las Vegas oddsmakers had made Pettway a 3-to-1 underdog..

"I thought Rosi quit in the first fight," Lewis said. "He stopped fighting and walked to his corner. When Vincent started hitting ,, him tonight, you could see the heart go out of him."

Pettway received $50,000, the same purse as the first fight. But he is now in position to reap the rewards of being an American champion, with promoter Don King squarely in his corner.

"I'd like to put Pettway in a title fight in Baltimore, if possible," said the flamboyant promoter.

That would be just fine with Boogie Weinglass, the clothing chain magnate who has been Pettway's employer and guardian angel since he first became a contender.

"We've got to merchandise him and make him a national figure, and make sure he reaps all the benefits and all the money he deserves as a champion," said Weinglass, one of the first to offer congratulations in the ring.

Norris was another interested party.

"I came here thinking I'd be fighting Rosi next," said the Californian who knocked Sugar Ray Leonard into retirement. "Now I guess I have to start thinking about Pettway."

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