Except for some soreness in his right fist, Baltimore's Vincent Pettway was feeling on top of the world yesterday.
The night before at the Baltimore Arena, Pettway defended his United States Boxing Association junior middleweight title by stopping Canada's Dan Sherry on cuts after the 11th round. The victory solidified his position as the mandatory challenger for International Boxing Federation champion Gianfranco Rosi of Italy.
Rosi must defend his title against Pettway by September, said IBF ratings chairman Doug Beavers, who supervised the match that attracted a crowd of 2,564.
If Pettway's dream materializes, he will be the first Baltimorean to fight for a world title since former featherweight champion Harry Jeffra challenged and lost to Chalky Wright on June 19, 1942.
"I think Pettway is capable of beating any of the current junior-middleweight champions, including Rosi," said matchmaker J. D. Brown, who books fights for Sherry.
"I believe Sherry is a natural 160-pounder," said Brown, "but we hoped we could steal Pettway's USBA title by dropping down to 154.
"Pettway's chin didn't have the best reputation. All four of his losses had been by knockouts. But Sherry caught him flush a couple of times, and he stood the test."
And then some. Pettway (36-4, 29 knockouts) gave away five pounds and three inches to the rangy Sherry, but proved the stronger puncher, flooring the Sugar Ray Leonard protege with a right hand in the third round and slicing his face open in the closing rounds. Sherry required 17 stitches to close deep wounds over both eyes.
Two of the judges had Pettway comfortably ahead by eight- and seven-point margins when ring physician Ian Weiner stopped the fight. But a third official, Karl Milligan, had Sherry in front, 105-103.
Even this could not temper Pettway's enthusiasm. "It was a hard fight early, but I could sense he was getting fatigued in the late rounds, and that's when I jumped on him," said Pettway
When and if he fights Rosi, it will likely be in Europe, where the Italian is popular and can demand $250,000 purses.
Promoter Don King, who recently signed Pettway to a multi-fight deal, is also trying to get Rosi under contract. But Rosi recently rejected a $1.3 million offer, said King's matchmaker, Al Braverman.
"We'll work something out with Rosi so that he fights Pettway this fall," Braverman said.