Bell in way of Brown's shot at 3rd title At 34, Mount Airy fighter seeks to turn back clock

September 11, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Bernard Hopkins, who has promised to defend his International Boxing Federation middleweight title against the winner of tomorrow night's Simon Brown-Reuben Bell fight at the Pikesville Armory, says he is not fooled by Brown's friendly demeanor.

Said Hopkins, "Outside the ring, Simon is always Mr. Nice Guy. But once he climbs between the ropes, he turns into Mr. Mean -- like a cold-blooded killer."

Brown, a native of Jamaica with a lilting voice and wearing granny spectacles, laughs when he hears this appraisal.

"The man is right," said the former welterweight and junior-middleweight champion seeking a chance at a third world crown. "I've never been a loud or crazy guy outside the ring. But once that bell rings, I'm all business, an animal, so to speak."

At 34, and a veteran of 15 years and 52 fights as a professional, Brown (46-6) realizes he will not have many more chances to attract major purses.

"That's why I'm viewing this as a must-win fight," said Brown, who lives in Mount Airy. "It's got as much pressure as a championship match because I need to win to get a crack at Hopkins. The older you get, when you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it."

In fighting Bell (13-1), who is 13 years younger, Brown is trying to turn back the clock to the days when he was regarded as a skillful boxer-puncher.

"When I won titles by stopping Tyrone Trice and Terry Norris, I started thinking I could knock everyone out," he said. "I wanted to be a slugger and got away from being a thinking fighter."

That attitude proved his undoing against Baltimore's Vincent Pettway at the USAir Arena in 1995 when Brown tried to reclaim the 154-pound title. Pettway got off the floor to stop Brown in the sixth round with a left hook.

Brown, who has had at least six trainers as a pro, has hired Charles Mooney, a silver medalist in the 1976 Olympics, to refine his style.

"I'm just giving Simon a refresher course," said Mooney, a former bantamweight now training boxers in Rockville. "When he was a young fighter, Simon threw punches in bunches, bobbed and weaved and slipped punches. But when he started dropping people with one shot, he got away from all that.

"But Simon is hungry to become a champion again. Like Ali, who kept adding things like the rope-a-dope, Simon realizes he has to use all his experience to beat a young, strong opponent."

Mooney says Bell's manager, Barry Linde, has mistakenly judged Brown as a has-been in agreeing to the match.

"I can't see Simon losing to a midget like Bell," the trainer said. "He doesn't have the experience, strength or skill to beat my guy."

Added Brown, "People think I'm beat up. But I don't drink or party. I'm always in great shape. I still feel like a young man, a fighting machine."

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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