clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Khan vs Peterson: The History of Boxing in Washington, DC

Lamont and Anthony Peterson have a chance to put DC boxing back on the map. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Lamont and Anthony Peterson have a chance to put DC boxing back on the map. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Getty Images

This week especially, but in the overall build-up to Khan vs Peterson on Saturday night at the Convention Center in Washington, DC, we have heard a lot about DC boxing, about rebuilding the sport's presence in the nation's capital, and about the history of the sweet science there.

But truth be told, history for DC boxing is a little bit thin.

That's not to say that there haven't been great fighters from the area, because there have been. Or that there haven't been great fighters from outside come through the city, because they've done so. But it's hard to argue that DC has ever been a truly major boxing hub, with the most major activity coming in the 1990s thanks to a group of homegrown (or close to it) fighters who put the city on the map.

Let's take a look back at boxing in Washington, DC, over the last 50 years.

The 1960s

Future Hall of Famer and all-time great light heavyweight Bob Foster made his professional debut at the Capitol Arena on March 27, 1961.

Foster, weighing in at 178 pounds compared to opponent Duke Williams' 185, won by second round knockout. Later in the show, Brooklyn welterweight Johnny Gorman had his hand raised for the final time in seven-year pro career, defeating DC native Willie Grey (9-3-3 at the time). Gorman would fight three more times, going 0-2-1, and had his last fight in August of that year, retiring with a record of 29-19-2 (2 KO).

Bob Foster returned on February 18, 1963, this time coming back from his first career loss against Doug Jones at Madison Square Garden in October 1962. Foster knocked out Richard Benjamin in the first round. Foster would also fight in DC on April 29, ending Curtis Bruce's night in four.

On June 24, 1965, a 44-year-old Sugar Ray Robinson came to DC. Far past his best and winding down his unbelievable career, Robinson faced traveling opponent Harvey McCullough. Robinson would face McCullough three times that year, winning each bout. McCullough retired in 1966 with a career record of 7-29-2 (2 KO). Robinson would fight 14 times overall in 1965, and this was the sixth of those bouts. The greatest of all-time was coming off of back-to-back losses.

In 1967, Bob Foster fought five times in DC, winning each fight as he continued to climb the light heavyweight ladder. Foster's wins came over Jim Robinson (KO-1), Andres Antonio Selpa (KO-2), Eddie Cotton (KO-3), Levan Roundtree (KO-8), and Sonny Moore (KO-5). Cotton -- the real Okie From Muskogee -- was just shy of his 41st birthday at the time, and was in his second-to-last fight after having challenged world champion Jose Torres in 1966 and losing a 15-round decision.

Jimmy Dupree, who would also become a top light heavyweight later on, fought on Foster's undercard on February 27, beating Cleo Daniels (TKO-8).

Forster was back again in 1968 for some stay-busy time. He had gained the world light heavyweight championship on May 24, but that came at New York's Madison Square Garden, where he knocked out the great Dick Tiger in the fourth round. Before making his first official defense in January 1969, Foster hit DC for a win over Roger Rouse on September 9. Rouse, who fought 1958-1972, had challenged Tiger himself in November 1967, and lost a TKO-12.

Foster and Rouse would meet again later, when Foster took his championship to Rouse's backyard in Missoula, Montana, battering him over three rounds until his corner pulled the plug.

The 1970s

Much like the 60s, the 70s were a time in DC boxing where legends gave cameos, but unlike Robinson, these were all young men on the way up.

On December 9, 1975, a 6'3", 209-pound, 26-year-old young man from Easton, Penn., comes to the DC Armory and scored a first round knockout of Leon Shaw to improve his career mark to 18-0, with 13 knockouts. That young man's name is Larry Holmes, future heavyweight champion of the world.

Another future Hall of Famer passed through on December 17, 1977, as Sugar Ray Leonard improved to 6-0 (4 KO) with a KO-2 win over Hector Diaz.

In 1978, nobody knew what the hell a "cruiserweight" was. On April 19 of that year, Baltimore's "Camden Buzzsaw," Dwight Muhammad Qawi, then known as Dwight Braxton, was a 25-year-old ex-con making his pro debut as a light heavyweight at the DC Armory. He went to a six-round draw with Leonard Langley. Qawi, at all of 5'5", would become light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion in his career.

As a novelty note, November 24, 1979 saw Ed "Too Tall" Jones, the NFL star and No. 1 draft pick in 1974, come to DC for one of his six pro boxing matches, winning a first round knockout over Fernando Montes. Jones didn't stick around in boxing.

But a kid on the undercard did -- Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini fought his third pro bout on the show at the DC Armory, defeating Ricky Patterson (KO-2).

The 1980s

Longtime lightweight and junior welterweight mainstay Darryl Tyson, a DC native, made his pro debut on September 3, 1982, defeating Wayne Anderson.

Tyson would go on to challenge for world titles, and face the likes of Freddie Roach, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Rafael Ruelas, Roger Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Zab Judah, and Chop-Chop Corley, retiring after his loss to Corley in 2004 at the age of 44. His biggest wins in DC were over Roach and Reggie Green.

Much of the decade was quiet in DC, but on April 27, 1989, a world title fight came to town, as Simon Brown, who had fought in DC a couple of times in 1985-86, returned to the city to defend his IBF welterweight title against Alfonso Long, winning via seventh round knockout.

The 1990s

Brown, a native of Jamaica based in Maryland, would also successfully defend the belt in DC on April 1, 1990, defeating Tyrone Tice. Brown would later pick up the WBC belt from Maurice Blocker, then lose it to Buddy McGirt, before defeating Terry Norris for a 154-pound belt in 1993.

Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images

On that undercard, young heavyweight prospect Riddick Bowe, who had turned pro in March 1989, continued cutting a torrid pace and improved to 15-0 (14 KO) with a TKO-2 over Robert Colay.

On September 7, 1990, Bowe took a step up in class in a DC fight, stopping Pinklon Thomas after eight rounds when the ex-champ's corner throws in the towel. Another young hopeful whose name would become familiar was Sharmba Mitchell, who won on both of the last two shows mentioned.

* * * * *

Jemal Hinton (22-0, 17 KO, 1988-1992)

Jemal Hinton is an odd story, a real "what coulda been?" tale. An amateur standout from District Heights, Maryland, Hinton lost in the Olympic trials to Kennedy McKinney and decided to go pro, hooking up with the Kronk Gym in Detroit. On October 18, 1990, Hinton knocked out Rafael Ortega in five rounds, and continued his march toward top contention in the 122-pound division.

Three months after that, Hinton defeated Diego Avila on the USA Network, a 12-round decision. And then he took a massive step back in competition, once again fighting guys with "bum" records -- 1-5, 0-6, 2-10, etc. And after winning his 22nd straight fight as a pro in January 1992, Hinton never fought again.

There was talk that he had converted to Islam, and that his religious beliefs would no longer allow him to fight. He was a real talent -- not a superstar potential guy, but someone who could have been a contender for sure.

* * * * *

The biggest DC show of the decade came on May 22, 1993, at RFK Stadium. Now world champion, Riddick Bowe defended against Jesse Ferguson in the main event, scoring a second round knockout win.

Nobody knew it at the time, but one of the era's great rivalries began in the ring, would simmer outside of it for 17 years, and then by the time the two rematched, had become a pathetic display of nothingness in 2010. This was the night that Roy Jones Jr scored a mundane, 12-round decision win over Bernard Hopkins. A totally forgettable fight, that wasn't really any good at all, with Jones claiming he fought the majority of the bout with one hand. There was no way to know at the time that these two men would become era-defining names. Jones, maybe. Hopkins? Absolutely not.

The decade also saw the rise of local fighters like Keith Holmes, who would win the WBC middleweight title and later defend it at the MCI Center twice in 1999; Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, who won his first world title in '96 and also defended twice at home; 1988 Olympic gold medalist Andrew Maynard, who never did win a major title; two-time middleweight title challenger Andrew Council; and Sharmba Mitchell, who won a junior welterweight title in 1998.

The 2000s

There's no getting around it -- DC boxing has been all but dead in the new century. Guys like Holmes, "Too Sharp" and Sharmba finished up their careers, and there has been a void.

The Peterson brothers have done a little to fill that void, but neither has truly established himself as a star or anything like that. Lamont gets one more shot to do that on Saturday, in what is the biggest DC fight card in over a decade.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bad Left Hook Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your global boxing news from Bad Left Hook