At a crossroads, Pettway must decide a future path After pounding by Norris, title bout is not option

February 26, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. -- The seating arrangement on the dais for the post-fight news conference at 2 a.m. yesterday morning clearly defined the winners and losers on promoter Don King's seven-hour ring marathon before a near-sellout crowd of 12,000 at the Richmond Coliseum.

Junior-middleweight champion Terry Norris sat at King's side, busily signing autographs. His latest victim, Baltimore's Vincent Pettway, looked on from the second row, dark glasses hiding the bruises on his face after he had been floored three times before referee Larry Doggett stopped the one-sided title match at 2:31 of the eighth round.

And the two fighters were clearly headed in opposite directions.

Norris, 28, who owns both the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation belts, seemingly has his pick of multimillion-dollar bouts against welterweight champions Pernell Whitaker and Felix Trinidad or a 154-pound unification match with World Boxing Association champion Julio Vasquez that already is booked for May.

But for Pettway, 30, the future was never more cloudy.

"I'll go home and pray and ask God what He wants me to do next," said the deeply religious boxer. "Tonight, it just wasn't my time."

With his new house being built in Carroll County and the loss of his job as a recreation supervisor at the Merry-Go-Round clothing chain, which is going out of business, Pettway may heavily weigh his options. But it will require a major break to gain another title chance after this latest setback.

After winning the title in 1994 by whipping Italy's Gianfranco Rosi and successfully defending it last April with a sixth-round knockout of Simon Brown, Pettway has been stopped by Paul Vaden and now Norris.

The Vaden match was undecided until the 12th and final round. But Pettway failed to win a single round against Norris and, in fact, was trailing by five points after only three rounds, the result of being decked by solid right hands in the first and third rounds.

"The first two times I went down, I got hit high on the head and lost my balance," he said. "But I wasn't really hurt."

That changed in the eighth round when Norris delivered a crunching hook just above the kidneys. Pettway fell sideways, in obvious pain. He clambered to his feet at the count of eight, but did not appear ready to continue.

"I don't remember being dropped with a body shot before, at least not since my amateur days. It took the air out of me," said Pettway (38-6-1), who has been fighting professionally since 1984.

And it may just be the right time for him to consider retiring, with no major paydays or challenges on the horizon.

"I'm not upset the referee stopped it, even though Vince was up," said manager-trainer Mack Lewis, who has been tutoring Pettway since he was a 9-year-old novice.

"He tried the best he could, but I'd advise him to quit if he was hurt real bad.

"We'll wait awhile before we talk. I'll see if he really wants to continue fighting. But if he does, he'll have to go back to the basics and fight ordinary opponents."

Pettway tried to look on the bright side.

"I know I hurt Norris a couple of times," he said. "And I made him miss a lot. I wanted him to come to me and land my counterpunches. But I couldn't follow up my jab. I had to be more offensive."

Manager Joe Sayatovich called Norris the "best pound-for-pound fighter today."

Norris made a public challenge to fight Whitaker at 147 or 154 pounds, saying he has no difficulty moving up and down the scale.

"Heck, one day I might even fight [super-middleweight champion] Roy Jones," he said with a confident grin.

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