RICHMOND, Va. -- Retirement from the ring may have become a real option for Baltimore's Vincent Pettway after he lost to champion Terry Norris by technical knockout at 2:41 of the eighth round of their junior middleweight title bout at the Richmond Coliseum last night.
Pettway had been floored three times and failed to win a round when referee Larry Doggett stopped the fight after Norris had dropped the challenger with a brutal left to the ribs.
"I got up. I was all right, and I could have continued," said Pettway, 30.
But to the crowd and Pettway's handlers, the end seemed almost merciful.
Norris, who owns both the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council belts, raised his record to 43-6, with 27 knockouts.
"I got started a little slow," said Norris, somehow forgetting the knockdowns that came in the first and third rounds. "He tried to box me. He should have come out brawling. He played into my hands. The first two times I hit him on top of the head and he can't take a good shot anymore."
Pettway, who had a brief reign as IBF champion, fell to 38-6-1, and will need a minor miracle to resurface as a serious title challenger in the 154-pound class after back-to-back title fight losses.
Pettway said he would wait for a decision from God on whether to continue. "If he tells me to hang the gloves up, I'll hang them up," Pettway said.
For Norris, 28, it was on to bigger pay days and tougher challenges.
Weighing only 150 for his latest defense, he has has his eyes set on a future match with welterweight king Pernell Whitaker.
"Pernell, if you're watching, take the challenge," Norris told the Fox network audience. "I'll come down to 147 or you can come up to 154. Let's get it on."
This marked Pettway's first appearance since he lost his IBF title to Paul Vaden in Las Vegas last August when referee Richard Steele stopped the fight in the 12th and final round.
Norris has been unusually busy, fighting six times in a 10-month span while regaining his WBC crown from Luis Santana and adding the IBF belt last December when he won all 12 rounds against a noncombative Vaden.
The champion forced the issue in the opening minutes, with the numerous clinches drawing boos from the estimated crowd of 11,000.
Pettway bobbed and weaved and landed an overhand right high on Norris' forehead. It had no visible effect.
Seconds later, Norris landed a short left that dropped the challenger. He bounced up just as the bell ended the round.
xTC Norris seemed eager to end it in the second round, catching Pettway on the ropes and landing a hard three-punch combination. After missing several wild punches, Pettway closed the round with a left and right on the chin that got Norris' attention.
But Norris was nonplused. He knocked Pettway down again, this time with a booming hook. But Pettway was clear-eyed in regaining his feet and stopped his tormentor in his tracks with a right cross. Norris was forced to clinch.
Pettway tried using his jab to set up his power punches in the fourth round, trying to avoid the ropes. Norris pushed Pettway to the floor, but it was not ruled a knockdown. The Baltimore boxer landed a long right, but Norris was scoring more often, piling up a considerable lead.
The pace slowed in the seventh round with neither fighter able to connect. The crowd was growing impatient, but Norris simply added another round to his lead.
Now Pettway's only chance to spring an upset lay in an improbable knockout in the closing rounds.
He scored with an overhand right in the eighth round but could not follow his advantage. Suddenly, a crunching left to the ribs sent Pettway sagging to the canvas. He was in obvious pain, but managed to clamber back to an upright position before the count of 10. But Doggett signaled the fight was over, drawing only a mild protest from Pettway's corner.
Oliver McCall began the telecast in spectacular fashion.
The former WBC heavyweight champion landed a short, crunching right on the chin of plodding Russian native Oleg Maskaev in the opening seconds of their scheduled 10-round bout.
Maskaev crumbled to the canvas, but beat the count. Referee Pete Johnson took one look at the fighter's dazed expression and signaled an end after only 98 seconds had elapsed.
McCall, a one-time sparring partner of Mike Tyson, raised his professional record to 26-6, with 19 knockouts. Maskaev, who had a dubious 15-0 record, but with only five fights outside of Russia, suffered his first defeat.
In another heavyweight bout, former WBA cruiserweight champion Orlin Norris, Terry's brother, bobbed and weaved and punched his way to a 10-round split decision over 36-year-old former heavyweight champion Tony Tucker.
Earlier, heavyweight Sam Hampton (15-2, 11 KOs) of Virginia Beach, who has fought several main events in Baltimore, knocked out Mark Johnson (5-2, 2 KOs) of Charlotte, N.C., at 1:25 of the second round of their scheduled six-rounder.
Hampton, scheduled to fight Jason Waller at Martin's West on March 20, withstood a first-round barrage by Johnson to floor him with a right cross early in the second round. Johnson regained his feet, but a brutal hook knocked him face down, and it took more than a minute before he was revived by the ring physican.
West Virginia native Christy Martin, considered the best woman fighter in the world, bolstered this reputation by demolishing Del Pettis in 49 seconds.
Billed as "the coal miner's daughter," Martin (24-2-2) swarmed all over Pettis from the opening bell and did not stop punching until the referee came to Pettis' rescue.
The crowd of 10,000 gave Martin, now living in Orlando, Fla., the biggest hand of the night.