An 'old' 31, Pettway foe Brown insists he's just getting started

April 19, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

LANDOVER -- Simon Brown must wonder what calendar the people in Baltimore and elsewhere are using. In this day and age, with grandfathers not only still in the ring but winning championships, Brown's relatively tender age still gets lots of attention.

After promoter Don King had done his bit boosting a fight card at USAir Arena April 29, working such diverse subjects as John Paul Jones, Lord Cornwallis and Newt Gingrich into the harangue, Simon listened as people took turns suggesting he's soon to qualify for Social Security benefits.

Brown challenges for Vincent Pettway's International Boxing Federation junior middleweight crown and the champ's manager-trainer Mack Lewis got the ball rolling by saying, "Simon's got to be at least 35 years old . . . all those title fights he's had."

It has been a long and eventful career for Simon, winner of three world titles during his 46-fight career. But, as he points out, "I'm only two years older than the other guy [Pettway]. I'm 31."

Thing is, Brown, a native of Jamaica, made his pro debut at 18 years, six months, a full three months senior to Pettway when he moved into the play-for-pay ranks. So why the perception that the challenger must have vivid memories of the Truman Administration?

"I've never been able to figure that out," says the soft-spoken man who now makes his home in Germantown (Montgomery County). "Tyrone Trice said my legs were gone [in 1990] and I knocked him out twice.

"Terry Norris said my chin was suspect [because of advancing years] and I knocked him out. If they were going to say anything, they might say my desire had lessened."

Brown half-admits that such might have been the case a couple of times over the last few years, but the old spirit, determination and incentive are back now.

Even though he won the IBF welterweight title in 1988 with a 14th-round TKO of tough guy Trice in France and successfully defended it eight times over the next three years while adding the World Boxing Council belt, undoubtedly Simon's crowning achievement was putting Norris to sleep at the end of 1993.

Recall, Norris had finally convinced Sugar Ray Leonard that his continuing in the ring was foolhardy and many backed his claim he was the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Brown cut him down in the fourth round. He defended the WBC super-welterweight title once before losing it back to Norris in a 12-round decision five months later.

"I didn't want to go back into a fight with Norris that quickly. Circumstances dictated it," he says. "I wanted to build something up for the second fight; get a little mean and angry. Besides, I trained for a different fight. I expected him to fight me. He ran all night."

"Mean and angry," words you'd never expect to come out of Brown, who, as he went over the same ground over and over with media representatives, had at least one of his three young daughters hanging around his neck at all times.

"Maybe the reason you haven't heard from me lately, since the second Norris fight [last May], is I took some time off. And I had a couple of fights in Las Vegas and Ecuador that weren't on television," said Brown.

"It has helped me a lot, pulling back a bit. I have to want to fight a guy to do good and I want to fight Pettway."

Perhaps it's wishful thinking when Mack Lewis speaks of Brown being 35. He hopes Simon has slowed down. Regardless, Mack says, "Pettway's younger and he'll be there first. You know, sometimes guys fight too long. Why is Simon still fighting?"

"Because I'm a former champ," says Brown, "and I want to be one again. I'd like to win anything I can. That will be my edge."

"Not likely," says Pettway. "I like where I'm at right now. I'm gonna have to turn the man away."

Vincent obviously doesn't believe in respecting his elder too much.

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