Desire is constant for ever-changing Brown


Since he first laced on a pair of gloves as an 8-year-old novice, current International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion Vincent Pettway has had one manager and trainer -- Mack Lewis, who has been opening the door of his antiquated Eager Street gym to neighborhood kids the past 51 years.

Conversely, Simon Brown, a three-time champion who challenges Pettway for his 154-pound title at the USAir Arena tomorrow night, has worked with at least seven trainers. In fact, Brown has difficulty remembering some of the men who have worked his corner since turning pro in 1982.

A reporter ticks off the names -- Pepe Correa, Teddy Atlas, Emile Griffith, Richie Giachetti, Adrian Davis and now a team of Panama Brown and Aaron Snowell, who worked with Mike Tyson before he was jailed.

"Yes, that's a lot of trainers," said Brown, 31, smiling behind his small-framed glasses. "But I did good work with all of them. I won titles with Correa, Griffith and Davis. A lot of them left because of problems with my managers over money.

"But Simon is going to do what he has to do," he added. "If what they say doesn't work, I'll automatically switch and do my thing, whatever it takes to win."

A soft-spoken man who came to Washington from Jamaica as a teen-ager, Brown's ferocity in the ring is in stark contrast to his politeness in public.

"People say I'm not mean enough," he said. "But I direct my anger in a way for me to perform. I don't have to act mean outside the ring to draw attention. I've got a life after boxing, and I don't want people saying I talked a lot of crap."

Brown's career has been a roller coaster ride the past four years.

After beating his close friend and former stablemate Maurice Blocker in March 1991 to add the World Boxing Council welterweight title to his IBF crown, he had difficulty making 147 pounds and was thoroughly whipped by Buddy McGirt.

"I just got my butt kicked that night," he said.

After moving up to the junior middleweight class in December 1993, he scored a stunning fourth-round knockout of Terry Norris, who was being hailed as the "best fighter pound-for-pound."

In a rematch last May, Norris turned dance master and won a lopsided 12-round decision to reclaim the title. "He ran like a thief," Brown said. "He didn't want to fight. He came for a track meet."

No one knows whether the Brown who humbled Norris or the one who was clearly out-boxed by both McGirt and Norris will test Pettway. For some insight, a few of his former trainers were consulted.

"I was Simon's first trainer," said Correa. "I had a place in Washington called the 'Latin Connection,' and when he was 14, he followed his buddy Leon Clifford into the gym.

"He was there every day, rain or shine. When he'd get home he'd call and ask, 'How did I do today?' And I'd say, 'Not bad son, not bad.'

"At the time, Aaron Caldwell was the baddest guy in the gym. No one wanted to fight him. But one day I put Simon in with him, and he tore Caldwell apart. I knew I had something special."

When Brown was 19, he made his pro debut in Atlantic City on a show promoted by Don Elbaum, who would become his manager and promoter and guide him to the title. They parted in a bitter financial dispute five years ago.

"I left first," Correa said. "I didn't think Simon was getting enough money fighting for Elbaum. I told him one day, 'Ten percent of nothing is nothing.'

"But if I hadn't been there in France in 1988 when he fought Tyrone Trice, he wouldn't have become a champion in the first place. It was a knock-down, drag-out fight, and Simon had to get off the floor to win. In the middle of the fight, he came back to the corner and said, 'Take my gloves off. I can't beat this guy.'

"I kept pushing him out of the corner, making him fight. He climbed the mountain that day. Knocked Trice out in the 14th. Maybe it's not that easy climbing the mountain anymore."

Atlas, who has worked with Tyson and Michael Moorer, followed Correa as Brown's principal trainer.

"There are a lot of fighters in the '90s who don't want a strict trainer," said Atlas. "But boxing is a serious business and you have to have a guy with a system who's in charge.

"In 1989, I was getting Simon ready to fight Luis Santana. About a week before, he said he wanted to postpone it. Like a lot of fighters, he was afraid of not being ready.

"I explained to him he was a professional, and I was a pro trainer, and he had an obligation to act like a pro. Being a professional isn't about punching power or speed. It's a real commitment to your sport. If he had pulled out, it would have been easy to do it again. But he fought and beat Santana over 12 tough rounds."

Davis, a talented welterweight in the '60s, got Brown on the rebound after his embarrassing loss to McGirt. He was in the corner when Brown upset Norris, but was fired after losing the rematch.

"A few days before the second Norris fight, Simon left the gym to have a meeting with [promoter] Don King," Davis recalled. "After that, I couldn't get his attention. He didn't do anything that night against Norris, just followed him around the ring. It just wasn't Simon.

"I was supposed to get 10 percent of Simon's purse, or $110,000. I got a little more than $30,000, and then they never called me again.

"Pettway's going to be a dangerous fight for Simon. Fighters change when they become a champion, more confident. . . . You've got to worry if Simon has the same commitment."

But Snowell, who has been conditioning Brown the past two months in Florida, insists the former champion has been rejuvenated.

"Simon is like a diamond in the rough. You've got to keep polishing him," said Snowell. "He understands now that he needs to change, to go back to when he was a complete fighter, not just looking for knockouts. He can take advantage of his experience. He's looking and acting like a champion again."

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