Van Kirk's fire won't melt Pettway


In parlance befitting the sport and the situation, time to put up or shut up, guys.

If you listen to the words flowing from the respective fight camps, Eddie Van Kirk will be like a "freight train" when he meets Vincent Pettway at the Baltimore Arena tonight.

Pettway says he'll remain "calm and focused" throughout the state welterweight title bout, which is scheduled for 12 rounds but is not expected to last much past half that.

Fire vs. Ice, a matchup of diverse possibility.

It's been an interesting couple of weeks leading up to the bout, which followers of the sweet science have been clamoring for for a couple of years.

Orchestrated by well-seasoned Don Elbaum, the promotion has been a return to the days when gimmicks, no matter how obtuse, were all part of the pre-fight hype.

There was the psychic, taking Van Kirk's boxing gloves in hand, and saying, "These belong to someone who is very angry." Then at a final news conference the other day, a couple of paramedics showed up carrying a stretcher.

"I wanted Pettway to get a first-hand look at the method of transportation he'll be taking out of the ring," explained Van Kirk's manager, Tony Pulaski. Elbaum allowed, "Tony is a man after my own heart."

Only trouble was Van Kirk failed to post, and no one knew why. Frigid feet?

"I saw Eddie several times over the weekend," said Elbaum. "Everything's cool with him. In fact, he's come up to me several times in the hotel and, nose to nose, screamed at me, 'I'm going to knock him out in the first round . . . the first round . . . the first round.' "

Possible, but extremely unlikely, according to the 9-to-5 betting line put out by Las Vegas.

"None of this has bothered me one way or the other," Pettway said of the considerable hype. "My job in boxing is to always stay focused, just like it's a day in the gym.

"An upset fighter usually doesn't win. A relaxed fighter sees more and is open to taking advantage of things. He's more positive."

Van Kirk is far from a relaxed fighter, yet they don't come much more positive than the flat-nosed battler from Westport with the 22-6-1 record.

Eddie's strategy could be etched on the head of a pin with enough room left over for a few thousand words from manager Pulaski. "Pressure, pressure, pressure," said Eddie. "I'll be all over Pettway. There won't be any running or hiding. I'll be right there. He'll do his thing or I'll do mine."

The thing is, Van Kirk better do his "thing" early, because it's conceded Pettway is the better boxer, the better defensive fighter and off his record, 30-4 (26 knockouts), probably packs a superior punch, too.

"Bull," insisted Pulaski. "Pettway fought a lot of nothings early in his career. Worst thing Mack Lewis did as his manager and trainer is put it in Vincent's head that he was a champion. There's a lot of extra stuff floating around in Pettway's mind. It's to Eddie's advantage that all he thinks about is boxing."

On more than a couple of occasions, that hardly seemed the case with Van Kirk, who has a habit of changing managers about as often as he changes his socks.

If it was the intention of the Van Kirk camp to unnerve Pettway, and indeed it was, the strategy worked on at least one occasion when Vincent blurted out, "I'll fight to the death."

Melodramatic, yes, but that's the direction the fight game heads in when one macho pronouncement leads to another until, soon, full-fledged hostility is in bloom.

In a strange turn of events -- is anything ever really strange in boxing? -- Van Kirk has been using Adrian Davis, trainer of Victor Davis, the man he was originally slated to fight, to prepare him for Pettway. He's been sparring with guys in two gyms and says he's in the best shape of his career, the usual claim of all fighters.

Pettway is always in top shape. And this time, he's motivated. "The reason I want to win so bad is to prove I'm as good as people once thought I was. I'm far from finished just because I got stopped a couple of times. I'm not into self-pity. I've learned from my losses and grown."

Pettway knows what Van Kirk is thinking: "He thinks if he clips me with a right hand, I'll go down. We're going to be testing his ability to take a punch, too, don't forget. And all you have to do is throw a punch, any punch, to hit Eddie."

"Eddie's hole card is his heart," Pulaski reminded. That and a 4 1/2 -pound pull in the weights, 146 1/2 to 142.

Vincent's hole cards include better boxing skills, quicker hands, better movement and, on a one-punch basis, a more devastating whack. Pettway in five.

Six fights support the main event, due to start at 10 p.m., with the first four-rounder allegedly going off at 7:30. Figure 7:50. A crowd of 3,000 is likely.


(AT THE ARENA) * First fight scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20, $25, $40 and $60, available at TicketCenter and Arena box office.

Irish" Carson McCourry of Pasadena, Md. (Pro debut) vs. Jeff Schmude of Erie, Pa. (0-2)

.$Light heavyweight bout, four rounds

Cliff Wise of Baltimore (0-2) vs. Eric Elliott of Hyattsville (1-1, 1 KO)

Junior middleweight, four rounds

Lou Benson of Baltimore (14-9-2, 7 KOs) vs. Ric Lainhart of Virginia Beach (14-12, 10 KOs)

Cruiserweight, four rounds

John "Boy" Bizzarro of Erie, Pa. (7-1-1, 4 KOs) vs. Sam Hunter of Baltimore (0-1)

Welterweight, four rounds

Jason Waller of Stafford, Va. (7-1-1, 7 KOs) vs. Scott Jones of Baltimore (2-0, 1 KO)

Light heavyweight, six rounds

David Izegwire of Washington, D.C. (3-0, 3 KOs) vs. Wayne McClanan of Virginia Beach (10-5, 2 KOs)

Light heavyweight, six rounds

Eddie "Speedy" Van Kirk of Baltimore (22-6-1, 13 KOs) vs. Vincent Pettway of Baltimore (30-4-1, 26 KOs)

State Welterweight Title, 12 rounds

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