Hometown her Pettway greeted with open arms

FAME FITS LIKE A BELT

October 06, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

The slight was not lost on Vincent Pettway when he found himself housed in a small trailer outside the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas on Sept. 17. He was the only fighter appearing on Don King's six-championship fight card to be left out in the cold.

"It kind of ticked me off," he said. "I guess they didn't expect me to do what I did to Rosi. Being treated that way only got me more psyched."

Psyched enough to steamroll Gianfranco Rosi, the International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion, in four rounds and become Baltimore's first world titleholder in 54 years.

Since then, the remote trailer has turned into a bandwagon. Since returning to Baltimore, Pettway has been caught up in a whirl of public appearances and civic events staged in his honor.

He has been showcased on almost all the local television stations and sports talk shows, and received several citations from Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who proclaimed Sept. 22 "Vincent Pettway Day."

He even has been invited to participate in the city's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Once just a face in the crowd, he now finds himself signing autographs and shaking hands with strangers.

But Pettway, who turns 29 in November, has managed to keep it all in perspective.

"I experienced something like this after I won my first 17 pro fights," he said. "All of a sudden, everyone was my friend. I'd be in a restaurant, and guys I hardly knew were ordering food and drinks and putting it on my tab.

"It got real crazy, but when I lost my first fight [a TKO by George Leach in April 1986], all these guys disappeared."

In a sense, however, the Baltimore native says the attention he is receiving has been overdue, and that city officials should roll out the red carpet for him the same way they did for Sugar Ray Leonard when he made his professional debut here after winning a gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games.

"Everyone rallies around the Orioles, but they went on strike," Pettway said. "And we don't have a professional basketball or hockey team in town. But being Baltimore's first world champ since 1940 should count for something.

"In Providence, the whole town gets behind Vinny Pazienza when he fights. Same for [light-heavyweight champion] Virgil Hill in North Dakota. The same thing could happen for me here with the right promotion."

Pettway, who works as a recreation supervisor and model for Boogie Weinglass' Merry-Go-Round clothing chain, said he would like to serve as Baltimore's goodwill ambassador, helping to promote the city through appearances at public workouts throughout town.

In the meantime, King; Al Braverman, his matchmaker; and Mack Lewis, Pettway's veteran manager-trainer, are busy plotting his boxing future. King has talked of capitalizing on the fighter's wave of popularity by staging a match in Baltimore against former champ Simon Brown of Mount Airy.

Braverman also said that Rosi's supporters are trying to put together a financial package that would result in a rematch in Italy, but no figures have been mentioned.

"I believe the outcome would be the same," said Pettway. "But they would have to be talking about big money for me to fight him in his backyard."

Pettway's biggest purse has been $50,000 -- a sum he received in his two fights with Rosi this year. He would be assured of earning almost 10 times that amount by fighting World Boxing Council champion Terry Norris, who sent Leonard into retirement. But that will not be on Pettway's 1994 calendar.

"It doesn't make sense to throw him right into the deep water," said Braverman. "Let him make some decent paydays fighting less dangerous guys."

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