16.10.05 – By John Way: Vince Phillips, one of the most amazing fighters of recent years, has yet again forced himself back onto the fringes of the world championship scene with a career saving technical decision win over Brazilian powerhouse, Kelson Pinto this Friday. For the former junior welterweight champion, times are looking up, setting the stage for potentially lucrative fights against fellow fringe contenders like Cesar Bazan, Damian Fuller, or Jose Antonio Rivera. Even though he’s well into his forties, Phillips finds himself in the same position as heavyweight contender Oliver McCall did last spring. Both blessed with hearty beards, they are living proof to the old adage that “The chin is the last thing to desert a fighter”. Though Pinto was primarily known for his much-vaunted power punching, it was “Cool Vince” who scored a second round knockdown (the only of the fight).
Considering that Pinto has lost twice in his last four fights, it may be time for the former title challenger to hang up the gloves since he seems to have fizzled out.
That’s not to say that he can’t fight-obviously he can, considering his gutsy (albeit losing) effort against champion Miguel Cotto, and an impressive win against tricky veteran, Emmanuel Augustus. An immediate sensation upon turning pro, Phillips proved to be a rough job to handle by reeling off twenty eight consecutive wins before dropping a heartbreaking technical decision to Anthony Jones, in a fight many believed the latter was lucky to win.
Before his controversial loss to Jones, Vince managed to beat Tyrone Downes and Harold Brazier in impressive fashion. Convinced his first loss was a fluke, he began campaigning seriously at welterweight, stringing together five good wins to earn the chance of a lifetime, in the form of a battle with African legend, Ike Quartey. Quartey, whose explosive power is every bit as famous as his willingness to stand and fight was looking to dispatch his foe in impressive fashion to set up a super fight with Oscar De La Hoya.
Unbeaten in over thirty fights-most by knockout-Quartey had barely lost more than a round or two in his entire career, and was considered by some to be the virtual twin of murderous-hitting Puerto Rican, Felix Trinidad. Using his heavy jab for the first two rounds, “Bazooka” Ike managed to offset his opponent’s tempo, to pull ahead to an early lead. The third began much the same way, until Quartey lost concentration only briefly, and was nailed with a perfect punch. Rising from the canvas, clearly angered, the Ghana native roared back to stop Phillips in the very same round, using some serious punching power of his own.
After the devastating defeat, Phillips desperately tried to regroup, but his efforts were promptly squelched by Romallis Ellis, who handed Vince his third loss, in the form of a split decision. The loses to Quartey and Ellis closely coincided with rumors of drug abuse, which certainly played a factor in making him a huge underdog heading into his career defining fight. At the age of thirty three “Cool Vince’s” second chance came against Aussie superstar, Kostya Tsyu, who was already considered a candidate for the Hall of Fame after only eighteen fights. Thanks to one of the most storied amateur careers ever, Tszyu was able to maneuver through the ranks with ease. In fact, after only five professional bouts, he was regarded as the third best junior welterweight in the world, only after Julio Cesar Chavez and Juan Coggi (both of whom are all time greats of the game).
Fresh off knockouts over Jake Rodriguez, Jan Bergman, and Hugo Pineda, Tszyu was almost universally expected to do what Quartey did: bomb out Phillips early. Instead, the no-hoper quit the drugs and added picked up where Buster Douglas, Frankie Randall, and Rocky Balboa had left off. Courtesy of his years as a welterweight, Phillips was astonishingly able to absorb everything Tsyu sent his way, while firing back with chopping overhand rights as his bamboozled opponent desperately searched for a solution in the fight of his life. Finally in the tenth, with his opponent exhausted and battered, Phillips opened up with a barrage of unanswered punches, prompting the referee to stop the contest, crowning a new champion.
In the inaugural defense of his IBF title, Vince faced a stern challenge from fearsome Massachusetts brawler, Micky Ward. “Irish Micky”-who’s savage bodypunching would later make him famous-was given a serious chance of winning the crown, thanks in part to his maniacal, never-say-die attack. From the opening bell it was clear that Ward couldn’t handle Phillips power any better than could Tsyu, and after only three rounds of gory action, the mismatch was called to a halt. After a
win over Freddie Pendleton, Vince was surprisingly splattered across the ring by unlikely champion Terron Millet, who had previously been starched in one round by feather-fisted Sharmba Mitchell.
This time, he didn’t have another great comeback performance to make everything better. Two fights after the debacle against Millet, he was shut out by blooming contender Vernon Forest. Three fights after that, Phillips lost a tough Majority decision to relatively ordinary Ray Oliveira, seemingly signaling the end of his career. Rather than bowing out, Vince lost an overgenerous majority decision to previously mentioned Sharmba Mitchell, and then struggled to last the distance against a swarming Ricky Hatton. Then, after an extended period of inactivity, he was selected by team Pinto as an easy pasty for their boy to beat up. We all know what happened there! Now, two years after the loss to Hatton, with his personal life seemingly
under control, he’s ready to face, and maybe even beat more to prospects like Pinto. Perhaps with a few more such victories, he’ll manage to get on the ballot for the Hall of Fame, even if he isn’t likely to get in.
Comments and questions are welcome below.