LANDOVER -- Baltimore's Vincent Pettway, sporting the word 'BOSS" on his ring robe, lived up to the claim last night at USAir Arena in the first defense of his International Boxing Federation junior middleweight title.
Dispelling all the talk about having a fragile chin, Pettway survived knockdowns in the first and fifth rounds before finishing three-time former champion Simon Brown of Mount Airy with a spectacular knockout at 2:07 of the sixth round.
Pettway's thundering hook counter off a lazy lead by Brown dropped the challenger flat on his back. He did not stir and his legs frighteningly twitched while referee Ray Klingmeyer counted him out.
Neurosurgeon Steve Manekin was summoned from ringside to administer help to the fallen boxer. Brown required oxygen before being propped up on his stool. He was taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
The crowd of 7,052, which mostly had supported Brown, suddenly found a new boxing hero in their Maryland neighbor who established himself as a bona fide champion.
After being assured that Brown, a good friend out of the ring, was not seriously hurt, Pettway said of the foul-plagued fight, "I wanted to be the boss. I wasn't going to let him dictate or get away with anything. I had to give back whatever he gave me.
"A lot of people tried to put doubts in my mind, about my chin
and fighting a big puncher like Simon. But we don't let things get in our way. With God on our side, we perservered.
It also took great courage and burgeoning talent for Pettway to survive several major scares. But, in the end, he proved he had the power and savvy to match Brown, a veteran appearing in his 14th title bout.
This was a breakthrough victory for the 29-year-old champion who won the crown in Las Vegas last September by knocking out Italy's Gianfranco Rosi in four rounds.
Pettway earned $200,000 last night but now could be in position to demand six figures from his promoter, Don King, who talked of a possible rematch with Rosi or possibly a bout with Luis Santana, the World Boxing Council champion who retained the title last month on a foul by Terry Norris.
But Pettway's brief reign as world champion almost ended in the first round when Brown, 31, flashed his old punching power, dropping the Baltimorean with a left-right combination.
Pettway (38-4, 31 KOs), who trained to stick and move on the stalking Brown and make quick counters, survived this initial shock and stunned the crowd by decking Brown in the second round with a right hand over a jab.
If nothing else, that earned Brown's respect, and the championship match then developed into an all-out war marred by frequent fouls and spirited fighting after the bell.
The battle again turned in Brown's favor in the fifth round when he sent Pettway flying through the ropes with a blow that appeared to be well below the belt line. But Klingmeyer missed the foul, and it was ruled a knockdown.
Pettway managed to get back into the ring, protesting Klingmeyer's count. He was given time to recover his mouthpiece, and his anger helped produce Brown's demise.
When Brown recovered his senses, he asked trainer Aaron Snowell, "Who won the fight?"
The answer was all too obvious as Pettway, his veteran manager-trainer Mack Lewis, and his handlers, staged a wild celebration across the ring.
"He followed our fight plan, just like we worked out in the gym the past few months," said Lewis, 78, who waited more than 50 years before Pettway delivered the first title to his antiquated East Baltimore gym.
"We wanted Vincent to move laterally in the early rounds and not test Simon's power. A punch is the last thing a fighter loses," Lewis said. "Naturally, I was concerned when he got knocked down in the first round. But he was in the best condition of his life, and that pulled him through."
Pettway was trailing on two of the three judges' cards going into the sixth round. Sylvester Stevens of Washington had Brown leading 48-44 and Larry Doggett of Virginia favored Brown 47-45. Larry Barrett of Baltimore had his hometown fighter ahead 47-46.
Referee Klingmeyer received complaints from both corners after the fight.
Commenting on the disputed fifth-round knockdown, Snowell said, "The count is supposed to be 10, not 15 or 20. And after Pettway finally got back in the ring, the referee let him get his mouthpiece and take time coming out of his corner. The fight should have been over."
But Brown (43-4, 33 KOs) refused to alibi.
"I got caught right on the button, dead on the chin," he said. "That's part of boxing. No excuses."
Added Pettway: "I fooled a lot of people who thought that if Simon hit me with one good shot, it would be over. I had to weather the storm. But this gave me an opportunity to show my heart and guts. I think I opened a lot of eyes tonight."