Box­ing in the area on verge of golden era

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - THOM LOVERRO

Box­ing is about to take a big step into the ring in the DMV. Satur­day night the MGM Na­tional Har­bor will host its first fight show, an HBO tele­vised cham­pi­onship card fea­tur­ing two-time Olympic gold medal­ist Va­syl Lo­machenko (7-1) de­fend­ing his World Box­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion ju­nior light­weight ti­tle against for­mer su­per feath­er­weight cham­pion Ja­son Sosa (20-1-4).

This in­au­gu­ral Top Rank show at The Theater at the MGM Na­tional Har­bor has been sold out for a month. The fol­low­ing week, the new casino will host an­other na­tion­ally tele­vised fight card, this one a Show­time event Fri­day, April 14, fea­tur­ing un­de­feated light heavy­weight cham­pion Dmitry Bivol fac­ing Sa­muel Clark­son.

These are just two of what prom­ises to be the start of prom­i­nent box­ing shows be­ing fea­tured in the area at a first-class lo­ca­tion— and it couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time for box­ing in the Washington area.

You see, the DMV has be­come the home of world cham­pi­ons — four of them.

La­mont Peter­son (35-3-1), a Dis­trict na­tive and for­mer 140-pound world cham­pion, has re­vived his ca­reer by mov­ing up in class and de­feat­ing David Avanesyan in Fe­bru­ary to cap­ture the World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion wel­ter­weight cham­pi­onship.

Jar­rett Hurd (20-0), out of Ac­co­keek, Mary­land, won a world cham­pi­onship that same month when he knocked out Tony Har­ri­son to win the va­cant 154-pound In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion belt.

In Jan­uary, Ger­vonta Davis (17-0) from Baltimore won the IBF ju­nior light­weight ti­tle, knock­ing out Jose Pe­draza in the sev­enth round.

They joined Washington’s Gary Rus­sell, Jr. (27-1), in the cir­cle of lo­cal world cham­pi­ons. Rus­sell won the World Box­ing Coun­cil feath­er­weight ti­tle two years ago with a fourthround knock­out win over Jhonny Gon­za­lez.

Rus­sell was supposed to head­line the first fight at the MGM Na­tional Har­bor last month, but his op­po­nent, Os­car Es­can­don, was hurt in train­ing camp, and the fight was post­poned.

He will get his chance to fight on the new glitzy stage that prom­ises to raise the pro­file of box­ing here. They all likely will — lo­cal world cham­pi­ons at a world cham­pi­onship venue.

“Hav­ing the MGM in the area, it makes it seem like we brought Ve­gas to D.C.,” said Hurd, whose brother Justin will be fight­ing on the April 14 Show­time card at the casino. “It seems like a great time for box­ing in Washington.”

Peter­son be­lieves the pres­ence of the MGM will al­low more lo­cal box­ing fans to see their lo­cal fa­vorites. “It def­i­nitely gives us more op­por­tu­ni­ties for big fights in the area so fans don’t have to travel so much all the time,” he said.

“We have a lot of young fight­ers that are about to be­come top con­tenders,” Peter­son said. “We can prob­a­bly have five or six world cham­pi­ons here.”

One of those young fight­ers is Dis­trict na­tive Mike Reed (21-0). The popular un­de­feated su­per light­weight con­tender, will face Reyes Sanchez on Satur­day night’s card, as well as Pa­trick Har­ris (10-0) out of Hy­attsville, Mary­land, an­other su­per light­weight con­tender, who will be in the ring with Omar Gar­cia.

The grow­ing list of lo­cal world cham­pi­ons is rem­i­nis­cent of the DMV box­ing scene in the 1990s, when there were six world cham­pi­ons – Hall of Fame IBF fly­weight cham­pion Mark John­son, WBA mid­dleweight ti­tle holder Wil­liam Joppy, WBC su­per light­weight cham­pion Sharmba Mitchell, WBC mid­dleweight champ Keith Holmes, WBC light mid­dleweight ti­tle holder Si­mon Brown and IBF ju­nior mid­dleweight cham­pion Vin­cent Pettway out of Baltimore.

Add into that con­tenders like Der­rell Co­ley, who fought Os­car De La Hoya in a head­line bout at Madi­son Square Gar­den, and other top fight­ers like 140-pounder Reg­gie Green and mid­dleweight con­tender An­drew Coun­cil — plus heavy­weight cham­pion Rid­dick Bowe mak­ing his home in Fort Washington, Mary­land, and Baltimore’s Hasim Rah­man knock­ing out Len­nox Lewis to win the heavy­weight ti­tle in 2001 (his son, heavy­weight Hasim Rah­man, Jr., makes his pro de­but on the April 14 show at the MGM Na­tional Har­bor) — and it was the golden age of box­ing lo­cally.

The lo­cal Washington cham­pi­ons grew up dur­ing that golden age, and some of them have con­nec­tions to those for­mer cham­pi­ons.

“When I was about 5 years old, be­fore I was able to com­pete in box­ing, those guys would tell me I was go­ing to be a world cham­pion at some point,” Rus­sell re­called. “They used to pay me to get in the ring and shadow box be­fore their work­outs.”

Peter­son re­mem­bers see­ing them fight on a Don King card (in 1999) at what was then the MCI Cen­ter while grow­ing up. “All those guys we watched and looked up to,” he said.

Box­ing here is on the verge of an­other great era, and the gold may be over­look­ing the Po­tomac at Na­tional Har­bor.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

La­mont Peter­son, a Dis­trict na­tive and for­mer 140-pound world cham­pion, has re­vived his ca­reer by mov­ing up in class.

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