Carl King, acting as host in behalf of his father, promoter Don King, introduced Baltimore's Vincent Pettway at a recent boxing news conference in Washington. In a voice filled with awe, he recalled how in April 1995, the then junior-middleweight champion left title challenger Simon Brown twitching on the canvas after landing a classic left hook in the sixth round.
"That was voted the knockout of the year," said King, "and I'll never forget it because Simon was one of my fighters."
But that spectacular victory has proved a mixed bag for Pettway, who has been fighting professionally since 1984.
"Knocking out Brown is all people really remember about my career," said the fighter who has had little to brag about the past four years. "I'd really like to be remembered for something besides that one fight, but it hasn't happened."
In a sense, Pettway, now 33, is starting almost from scratch in trying to resurrect his ring reputation.
His longtime manager-trainer, Mack Lewis, dropped him down to the welterweight ranks to put him in better position for a title shot after he lost his 154-pound crown to Paul Vaden and was subsequently knocked out with a body shot by then junior middleweight champion Terry Norris in February 1996.
He has maintained the No. 1 ranking by the International Boxing Federation despite being inactive the past 13 months after breaking his right hand in beating journeyman Gerald Reed in December 1997. The injury required surgery to repair the metacarpal bone that attaches the hand and wrist. It knocked him out of a scheduled welterweight title match with Felix Trinidad last March.
Interestingly, Pettway will again be fighting Reed at the Washington Convention Center on the undercard tomorrow of a card featuring a middleweight championship rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Gerald Allen.
If he wins, Pettway will be in position to fight the winner of the Trinidad-Pernell Whitaker fight at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 20.
His lofty ranking has not gone unnoticed by boxing critics. In an article last August titled "Separating Contenders From Pretenders," The Ring magazine cited Pettway's situation as a prime example of what is wrong with the present rating system by the numerous boxing sanctioning groups and the backroom political deals made with favored promoters.
But Pettway, who has not fought a meaningful fight since losing to Norris, staunchly defends his No. 1 status.
"I know I'm fortunate to be No. 1, and being allied with King has helped put me in position for a title bout," he said. "But when people pick on me personally, it's upsetting. I've paid my dues fighting all these years. They can't blame me for getting hurt, and in the past six months, the right fights just haven't been available."
Still, Pettway can fault himself for letting his junior-middleweight belt slip away in 1995 after only one successful defense.
"Against Vaden, I was winning on the judges' cards and just had to survive the last round," he said. "I might have fought differently had I known, but I still felt the referee stopped it too soon while I was on the ropes. My head was up and Vaden wasn't landing that many punches."
He blamed his loss to Norris on being "too conservative."
"I should have made Norris fight me," he said. "I know I hurt him in the third round, and that's when I should have stepped on the accelerator and gone for broke. But I was following the game plan of my corner, trying to outbox him."
During his long absence from the ring, Pettway has worked at a number of jobs to help prepare him for retirement.
He earned a certificate for barbering, worked in computer and telephone sales, and is currently teaching boxing aerobics and serving as a ringside commentator at area club shows.
He also works the midnight shift as a youth counselor at the Thomas O'Farrell facility in Marriottsville. In between, he finds time to do his roadwork and train at Lewis' Broadway gym.
"My ultimate goal is to be an entrepreneur and have my own business," he said.
But first he wants to leave a legacy as a dual world champion in boxing.
"You don't hear my name mentioned in the company of Trinidad or Whitaker," he said. "But that could work in my favor. When I get my title shot, they'll be looking past me and, you know in boxing, anything can happen."
Andrew Council (28-6-3), Lanham, vs. Michael Ward (24-3), Fort Washington, middleweights, 10 rounds
Reggie Green (28-2), Clinton, vs. Jesus Rodriguez (33-12), Mexico, 12 rounds, for Green's NABF junior welterweight title
When: Tonight, first preliminary bout 7: 30 p.m.
Where: Pikesville Armory, 600 block Reisterstown Road TV: ESPN2
Tickets: $35, $25 and $20. Call 410-528-1932.
Bernard Hopkins (34-2-1) vs. Robert Allen (23-2), New Orleans, 12 rounds, for Hopkins' IBF middleweight title
Sharmba Mitchell (43-2), Takoma Park, vs. Pedro Saiz (23-4-3), Dominican Republic, for Mitchell's WBA junior welterweight title
Keith Holmes (30-2), Wash., vs. Charles Whittaker (14-5), Cayman Islands, middleweights, 10 rounds
Vincent Pettway (41-6), Baltimore, vs. Gerald Reed (15-20-3), Georgetown, Ky., welterweights, 10 rounds
When: Tomorrow, first bout 7 p.m.
Where: Washington Convention Center, 9th and G streets, NW TV: Showtime
Pub Date: 2/05/99