After several months of financial wrangling between promoter Don King and International Boxing Federation junior-middleweight champion Gianfranco Rosi, Rosi's mandatory title defense against Vincent Pettway of Baltimore officially has gone to purse bids.
"We sent faxes to our 15 IBF-registered promoters on Tuesday," Bob Lee Jr., the IBF's presidential liaison, said yesterday. "The bids will close at noon, Dec. 28. At that time, the highest bid will be awarded the match."
The winning promoter must place 20 percent of his bid in escrow and then will have 90 days to stage the championship match.
If Rosi, who is guaranteed 75 percent of the total purse, fails to accept the offer, the Italian would be stripped of the 154-pound title he has held since beating Darrin Van Horn in Atlantic City on July 15, 1989.
That, incidentally, was the last and only time Rosi (57-3, 17 KOs) has fought outside Europe. All 11 of his successful title defenses have been staged in Italy or France.
"That's been one of the stumbling blocks, along with the size of his purse," said Al Braverman, who serves as King's matchmaker. "Rosi wants to fight Pettway in Italy, where he figured to get the better of the officiating. Don told him, 'Fine, you find a promoter, but you've got to pay Pettway's [$75,000] purse.' "
A King confidant said the promoter offered Rosi $200,000 at a meeting with the Italian champion and Italian representative Julio Spaznoli in New York last weekend, but was rejected. It is more than likely, though, that King, who has promotional ties to both fighters, will win the purse bids and use the Pettway-Rosi bout on one of his multi-championship pay-per-view cards for Showtime, possibly in February.
Pettway (36-4, 29 KOs) has been waiting on Rosi since scoring a technical knockout over Dan Sherry in a USBA title fight at the Baltimore Arena on May 12. Technically, Rosi was to have defended his crown by November, but was given an extension by IBF president Bob Lee Sr., while negotiating with King.
"I've been training hard in the gym the last six months, but that's not the same as an actual fight before a crowd," said Pettway, 28.
"I figure that I'm eight years younger than Rosi, so the long layoff should affect him more than me."
Mack Lewis, Pettway's manager-trainer, was relieved that the IBF had finally begun the purse-bid procedure.
"We've been waiting a long time, but, at least, we're getting closer," he said. "Naturally, we'd like to fight Rosi in the United States. But I think Vincent has the style and ability to beat him no matter where the fight is held."
Pettway also is ranked No. 4 by the World Boxing Council. The WBC champion, Terry Norris, defends his title in Mexico tonight against Simon Brown of Mount Airy, Md.