When Vincent Pettway heads out of the dressing room at the Baltimore Arena tomorrow night, the odds are pretty good he might stop and ask directions to the ring. It has been a while since the USBA junior-middleweight champ threw a punch in anger, like eight months.
Some say it has been too long, and they're giving Canadian Dan Sherry a shot at posting an upset. "He'll be bigger than us, and he comes to fight," says Mack Lewis, in typical trainer/manager style. "But that's good. It's the guys who run who can give you trouble."
There's a very simple reason why Pettway, winner of 35 of 39 fights, 28 by knockout, has been on the inactive list so long. With the title he won against Gilbert Baptist at Martin's West last fall, he went to the top of the IBF ratings. He's been waiting for the mandatory shot at the organization's 154-pound champion, Gianfranco Rosi, ever since.
"And to tell you the truth," Lewis says, "we haven't gotten many calls to fight. One was for $75,000 to fight [former WBC middleweight champ] Julian Jackson, but that was no good. Jackson's just too big."
Meantime, Lewis says, no ring rust has built up on his man: "You know, we've got eight or nine fighters working out of the gym and they're active. I'd say three or four times a week for the last couple of months Vince has gone six or eight rounds with two or three different fighters, guys from 140 pounds to full middleweights.
"In gyms, it's always competitive. These guys are for each other, but at the same time they want you to be looking and working with them, not another fighter. Some of the guys like to beat Pettway for two or three rounds every chance they get. He's ready."
Still, it's not the real thing, and that's where Sherry comes in. "He's gotta make 154 pounds, but I don't like the weigh-in being the day before the fight," Lewis said. "That gives a guy three or four meals before the next night, and I'll bet Sherry will be up to 160-162 pounds. Pettway won't go but 153.
"But Sherry's not a big puncher. He's had nine knockouts [on a 21-4 record], but Pettway has the better punch. I think we'll get him out of there."
The card, which boasts more than 50 rounds of boxing, is scheduled to get under way at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $40, $30 and $20 and are available by calling 481-SEAT.
* One of the problems in boxing is when all is said and done and said again, the fighters have to get into the ring and perform and, too often, they simply can't hack it. Case in point: the Lennox Lewis-Tony Tucker WBC heavyweight title bout on pay-per-view Saturday.
Lewis won by a safe margin and sent Tucker to the canvas a couple of times. But his inexperience was evident throughout and he looked positively amateurish at times. Tucker, after a supposedly tough training regimen, was said to be a rejuvenated fighter. Bull. He was as lethargic as ever despite the opportunity afforded him.
* Washington area fight fans aren't storming the ticket booths for Riddick Bowe's heavyweight title defense against Jesse Ferguson at RFK Stadium May 22, but Bowe manager Rock Newman isn't panicking. Yet.
"Washington is one of the notoriously slow-buying sports towns in the world. We're at about 10,000 [of 30,000] tickets sold now, but remain encouraged because they're late buyers," Newman says. "The day of the Bowe-Elijah Tillery fight at the [Washington] Convention Center, we had 800 tickets sold. The crowd numbered about 7,000 that night."
With the only news out of the camps being injury-denial stories and tired Rocky parodies regarding 35-year-old (at least) journeyman Ferguson, look for Newman and the champ to come up with at least two blatant publicity gimmicks in the last 10 days before the fight.
Mack Lewis is at least one guy looking for Ferguson to prove a tough customer for Bowe. "Particularly if Riddick isn't in top shape [which is a pretty good bet]," Mr. Mack says. "We fought Ferguson twice, with George Chaplin and Reggie Gross, and he beat us both times. He's a veteran, knows what to do and can fight any kind of a fight."
* Today's adventure in fiction writing comes from a publicist for the George Foreman-Tommy Morrison HBO fight June 7 who pens, "Foreman has received his own intuitive message that Morrison is a dangerous opponent. George is due to leave his ranch in Texas for a remote retreat in St. Lucia, where he will undertake a torturous regimen amongst the harsh landscape or steamy jungles and rugged mountains."
Wait a minute! George Foreman?