By Gary “Digital” Williams
The Beltway Boxing (Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia) scene has been fortunate to see some tremendous boxers during its history. From Holly Mims to Bob Foster to the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard, the DC-area has seen its share of tremendous champions and challengers.
Over the last 24 years, it has been my honor to cover some of the best boxers in this area that have been integral parts of the world boxing scene. I call the time between 1986 and the present the “Post-Sugar Ray Leonard Era.” Here are the boxers I feel have been the best of the best during this period. Combined, these boxers fought in 83 world championship bouts and won 17 world championships.
10. Andrew Council (31-8-3, 20 KO’s) Council was someone boxing fans all over the country respected. He was a solid body puncher who in another time, he probably would have been a world champion. Fought tough battles against Bernard Hopkins, Keith Holmes (twice), and Robert Allen. Did not perform well against a young Winky Wright. Council’s best win was a ninth round TKO over a shopworn but still dangerous Buddy McGirt in 1995.
9. Darryll Tyson (50-14-1, 25 KO’s) Tyson fought a who’s who of boxers between 135 and 140 pounds. Bouts against everyone from Jimmy Paul (a 12-round win and a 15-round loss for the IBF Lightweight title) to Miguel Angel Gonzalez and from Livingstone Bramble to Oscar De La Hoya always showed Tyson in a positive light. Fought two of the best bouts ever seen along the Beltway: a 12th round stoppage of Reggie Green in 1994 for the NABF/USBA junior welterweight title and a 10th round TKO loss to Freddie Pendleton for the USBA title on the “Beltway Brawl” card. His dedication and approach to the game has been legendary.
8. DeMarcus Corley (36-13-1 21 KO’s) Is on this list because of his stunning first-round knockout over Felix Flores to win the WBO Junior Welterweight title as well as his ability to go the distance with the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Zab Judah and Randall Bailey. Corley brings more flash and talent to the 140-pound class. One of only three boxers on this list still active, Corley is scheduled to be in action July 2 in California.
7. Hasim Rahman (47-7-2, 38 KO’s) Rahman is on the comeback trail, having won by fourth-round TKO over Shannon Miller Saturday in Niagara Falls, NY. Rahman would probably be higher on this list if he had not sqaundered chances to be an elite heavyweight against the likes of Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz. However, the impact of his stunning title victory over Lennox Lewis puts him on this list.
6. Keith Holmes (41-5, 25 KO’s) Probably the most maligned champion we’ve had along the Beltway. Holmes never has received the respect he is due. People only remember the terrible loss he suffered in the Middleweight Championship Series against Bernard Hopkins, but when Holmes was on, he was as talented as they come. His first WBC Middleweight title win over Quincy Taylor, as well as wins over the likes of Andrew Council, Darryl Lattimore, Kelcie Banks, Hassine Cherifi and Paul Vaden proved that. Recently came back into the ring with a win in DC over Willis Lockett.
5. Vincent Pettway (43-7-1, 32 KO’s ) This man was “Mr. Excitement” in the ring. From his thrilling loss to fellow Beltway Boxer Victor Davis in 1990,(in a bout that USA Network named one of their top 10 of all time)to his IBF Junior Middleweight title victory over Gianfranco Rosi in 1994 to his electrifying knockout win over Simon Brown at the “Beltway Brawl” in 1995 (which boxing magazines called everything from the Knockout of the Year to one of the Top 10 Knockouts of All Time), Pettway gave every thing he had everytime he stepped into the ring. Pettway was Baltimore’s first world champion in almost 90 years.
4. Sharmba Mitchell (57-6, 30 KO’s) Mitchell ranks on this list for not only winning the WBA junior welterweight title in 1998, but also because of his excellence over a long period of time. Never had a true marquee win but we have not had a more consistent boxer, especially over the last 10 years. Mitchell has always been a contender and a major player.
3. William Joppy (39-6-1,30 KO’s) Joppy has won three WBA middleight titles and although he doesn’t have a marquee win (unless you count his knockout win over an aged Roberto Duran), he was a major player in the division for some time. His first title win over Shinji Takehara in Takehara’s home country of Japan was something to behold.
1 (tie). Mark Johnson (44-5, 28 KO’s) Johnson should be a hall of famer. Why he isn’t is beyond me. Johnson made the flyweight division a viable one for Americans because of his talent. The fact that he was the first African-American and second American to win the flyweight title is enough to get him in Canastota. In his prime, Johnson repeatedly made pound-for-pound lists around the world. His historic title wins over Francisco Tejedor and Arthur Johnson were phenomenal displays of punching power. And just when people thought his career was over, Johnson wins a third world title in 2003. He has had a remarkable career. During a boxing magazine’s Fantasy Boxing draft, legendary boxing writer Jack Fiske made Johnson his first pick on his team. Fiske explained his choice this way: “If you’ve ever seen him fight, you know why.”
1 (tie). Simon Brown (47-12, 34 KO’s) Brown was the first great Beltway Boxer of the post-Sugar Ray Leonard era. At one point, Brown was regarded as the best welterweight in the world. Brown fought some incredible battles against such foes as Tyrone Trice (twice), Al Long and, of course, who could forget his legendary battle against fellow Beltway Boxer and best friend Maurice Blocker in Vegas in 1991 (recently named by Ring Magazine as one of the ten best welterweight championship bouts of all time)? Brown surprised everyone when he moved up to junior middleweight in 1993 and scored a major upset over future hall of famer Terry Norris in a bout Ring Magazine chose as the upset of the year. Even in defeat, Brown was a tremendous boxer with a boatload of heart. A definite hall of famer in my book.