Pettaway to face Bobby Thomas Jr. for cruiser title
HUNTINGTON -- Jason Pettaway has gotten past his first pro boxing defeat and is ready to return to the ring.
Pettaway (11-1, 8 KOs) is scheduled to face Bobby Thomas Jr. (12-1) for the West Virginia cruiserweight championship on April 6 at the Convention Center in Beckley. Thomas, the reigning champion, is from Oak Hill. The fight is scheduled for 10 rounds and is the feature bout during the 34th Southern West Virginia Toughman Contest set for April 5-6. Sanctions for regional/national titles are possible.
"I'm catching a break," Pettaway said Sunday during a training session at Ground Zero Fighting Systems in Huntington. "I've been able to regroup. My comeback and a title fight. I've got to refocus. I'll be back stronger than I ever have."
Pettaway, who is from Huntington, has been idle since March 17, 2012, when he suffered that first defeat. He met Magomed Abdusalamov for the WBC Silver heavyweight title on the "Get Your Irish Up" show at Madison Square Garden. Abdusalamov, who was born in Russia and trains in Oxnard, Calif., pounded Pettaway from the opening bell. He finally stopped Pettaway at 1:20 of the fourth round with a barrage of punches that had a ringside doctor running up the steps to get the referee's attention to call a halt to the fight.
Since that fight, Abdusalamov (16-0, 16 KOs) has won twice more, both by TKO in the second round.
"That guy could hit," Pettaway said. "It was more of a learning experience. That loss. ... it was all new to me. I had to visualize what I'd been through."
Before the Abdusalamov fight, Pettaway, 32, had gone the distance in just two fights.
"I've dusted myself off," Pettaway said. "It's time to grasp the moment, treat every fight as big. I have to train harder."
It's no secret Pettaway has wanted a fight against Thomas. Thomas was to fight Warren Browning of Lenore for the West Virginia cruiserweight title during the Tri-State Original Toughman Contest on Jan. 12 at Big Sandy Superstore Arena. However, Thomas didn't make weight and the fight got changed to four rounds.
Thomas neutralized Browning's power and scored consistently with a left jab and rights to the head. At the end of the second round, Browning (17-3) appeared to be in trouble. He didn't answer the bell for the third, so Thomas (12-1) got credit for a second-round TKO. He is now 2-0 in Toughman shows at Big Sandy. He knocked out Cullen Rogers in the first round in 2011. Pettaway also fought that night and won.
"I felt it should've been me," Pettaway of getting that title shot. "I'm not trying to be negative. It's going to happen. Beckley? I don't care. I've waited a long time."
Travis Hanshaw, Kentucky welterweight state champion from Ashland, also got in some sparring Sunday at Ground Zero. He improved to 7-0 with a unanimous decision over Nathan Petty on Feb. 2 at the Boyd County Community Center. He's scheduled to fight March 2 in the Arnold Classic in Columbus. A win there and Hanshaw said he's in line to get a shot at a national title.