Photo by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
by Stiff Jab Staff
2013 was a great year for boxing as a whole, but especially here in the nation’s capital. The D.C.-Maryland-Virginia fight scene exploded over the past 12 months, and the area now boasts the finest crop of young boxers East of the Mississippi.
Fans, writers and boxing people are always asking me which of these prospects they should be paying attention to. The short answer is: a lot of them. Sure, one or two have done more than the rest, like Stiff Jab 2013 Prospect of the Year Mike “Yes Indeed” Reed (left) or 2012 winner Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (center). But for most of the others, it’s far too early to tell how good they could be.
Hopefully a few of these young guns will be tested in 2014, but for now, here’s a list of young, local pro fighters worth keeping an eye on. Wherever possible, we’ve included links to our previous coverage. Find out who made the cut:
David Grayton photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com
Photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
As if the next couple weekends aren’t enough, fans in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region can expect a fall filled with local fight cards. Gary “Digital” Williams has the low down as usual, reporting on a series of local shows that should feature many of the fighters we’ve been following over the next few weeks.
Some highlights: An attorney by day and professional cruiserweight boxer by night, it’s hard not to respect Venroy July, even if he did go to Duke. July’s Hardwork Promotions will stage a card on Saturday, September 28th at Patapsco Arena in Baltimore, Md. Rising featherweight and Stiff Jab favorite Kevin Rivers Jr. (below) of Palmer Park, Md. is also scheduled to appear on the show.
GH3 Promotions has been snatching up local talent lately like real estate in Northwest D.C. The Newark-based outlet will hold its first local show, featuring Antoine “Action” Douglas, Danny “Smooth” Kelly and Jerry “2 Tickets 2 Paradise” Odom at Charles Houston Recreation Center in Alexandria, Va. on October 25th. GH3 also has a show next Friday, September 13th, at Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. All three local prospects are expect to appear.
Dusty Hernandez-Harrison photo by Anna John for StiffJab.com
Thanks for the question, sorry it has taken me so long to get around to publishing a few of these letters to the editor.
The process of turning into a professional boxer is relatively straightforward. You must first learn to fight, preferably as an amateur in a gym filled with aspiring professionals. After training and fighting amateur for several years, and presumably doing well, you turn professional and gradually increase your level of competition.
Of course this is the ideal scenario. In reality, becoming a professional fighter is mostly an issue of obtaining a license from a state or tribal Athletic Commission, then convincing a matchmaker to put you on a card. Unfortunately both of these tasks are far easier than they should be.
For example, I’m sure if I were willing I could find my way onto a local card, where I would no doubt be paid less than $1000 to take a (very short) beating from a DMV fighter for the amusement of his friends and family. Certain places specialize in producing such fighters, also known as opponents or tomato cans. They include Akron, Ohio; Wilson, N.C.; and sadly, my hometown.
Commissions are supposed to vet these fighters to ensure the matches are sporting, but different states vary greatly in enforcement. Almost anyone with a pulse, a clean bill of health, and an out-of-town address can get approved to fight in D.C. or Maryland.
As for convincing a good promoter or manager to sign you, one that can advance your career, that is another tricky question. A long and decorated amateur career is the best answer, and even that is no guarantee, as reflected in the fact local prospects such as Kevin Rivers Jr. and Jerry Odom remain unsigned despite their amateur exploits. Only making the U.S. Olympic team is a sure ticket to stardom, as evidenced by Al Haymon’s signing of six out of the eight members of the London 2012 squad.
In other countries such as Mexico, fighters turns professional much sooner and do much of their learning in the paid ranks. There are advantages to this system, especially since amateur boxing is meaningfully distinct from the professional game. Stiff Jab 2012 Prospect of the Year Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (above)turned professional at age 16 and appears ahead of the game as a result. So the jury is still out on whether the U.S. approach is the best.
But that’s pretty much the gist of it. If you want to know more about the gritty details of the professional fight game, I highly recommend Thomas Hauser’s excellent book, The Black Lights: Inside The World of Professional Boxing
Ty Barnett celebrates with trainer Duke Buchanan. Photo Credit: StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—It’s good to be home.
That was the take-home message from lightweight Ty Barnett’s inaugural outing as a promoter at Washington Convention Center on Saturday night. Barnett headlined the first show from Top Flight Productions and sent the modest crowd home happy, stopping Stephan Alexander of Norfolk, Va. in the 6th round after an entertaining main event.
Barnett’s stoppage was not the most impressive on this night, which featured entertaining knockouts from local prospects Kevin Rivers Jr., Danny Kelly, David “Day Day” Grayton (below), and others. Given this was the first show from this outfit, I came away impressed by the smoothness of the operations and the matchmaking by Brian Dillon. Overall it was a thoroughly entertaining night of boxing. Hopefully the fans that did show up felt the same way, and will bring some friends next time.
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, DC—After a brief hiatus, boxing returns to our nation’s capital tonight at the serendipitously named Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest D.C. A slew of local prospects are scheduled to fight including Kevin Rivers Jr., Mike Reed, Renaldo Gaines, David “Day Day” Grayton and Danny Kelly.
Top Flight Productions will present the show, which will be headlined by Ty Barnett vs. Stephan Alexander (above) at a catchweight of 138 lbs. The last time we saw Barnett (right) was in August, when he fell short in the biggest fight of his career against Filipino lightweight contender Mercito Gesta. The inactivity could make Barnett susceptible early, especially since his beard hasn’t always held up in recent fights.
Alexander should provide a challenge in the 10-rounder; the Norfolk, Virginia native has some pop, as evidenced by his knockdown of Stiff Jab favorite Terron Grant in October. Alexander was unlucky to lose a split decision in that fight, and has reeled off two straight wins in his hometown since. If Barnett comes out rusty, he could find himself in for a short night. But if this goes the distance, expect Ty to win the decision.
Photos by Anna John for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Like all entertainers, boxers are unpredictable by nature.
Men that fight for a living are often more temperamental than the brattiest teen idol in Hollywood. Almost every card includes at least one fight scratched because an opponent has succumbed to that peculiar sickness that takes hold between the weigh-in and the opening bell. Promoters can only book their fights, make their contingency plans, and pray.
If boxing is, in the end, simply show business, then another maxim holds true: the fans come to see the main event, not the supporting players. That might be a hard truth to swallow for some undercard fighters, especially since they are putting themselves at the same risk as their better-compensated peers. But it’s the truth.
There were some complications on Saturday night during the first professional boxing show promoted by All-In Entertainment at UDC in Northwest Washington. Only five of the nine scheduled fights were completed, and writers were left typing their reports in blackness after a power outage cut the walk-out bout short. None of that mattered. To the nearly 3,000 fans that packed the auditorium, it was a night at the fights, a moment to be savored regardless of the complications.
It is still far too early to say how good 18-year-old D.C. welterweight Dusty Hernandez-Harrison will be. Even with 15 professional fights under his belt, Dusty is only scratching the surface of life as a professional fighter. But Hernandez-Harrison offered a tantalizing glimpse of his potential on Saturday night, displaying poise beyond his years during his 5th-round knockout of Eddie Soto.
Photos by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
If you read this blog at all, you know we’re extremely upbeat about the both the present and future of DMV boxing. The current kingpins of D.C. will be on display in Atlantic City this weekend, but the next generation of stars will be honing their craft this Saturday at a more local (and appropriate) venue: the University of the District of Columbia Sports Complex.
Stiff Jab 2012 Prospect of the Year Dusty Hernandez-Harrison will continue his journey at welterweight with a step up against Eddie Soto of Pawtucket, R.I. Soto started his career with 12 straight wins before losing his last six, four by stoppage. As an opponent, Soto fits with Team Dusty’s plan to keep the risk low while exposing Dusty to various styles and skill levels. Harrison is also fighting at home for the first time this year after two bouts in Delaware and one in Mississippi.
"I’m happy to be home. Everybody missed me, they keep asking me when I’m coming home, so I’m glad to finally be back," Dusty said at Monday’s media workout. "It should be the biggest fight yet that I’ve had."
Photos by Gautham Nagesh for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh with Rodriguez Jackson
FORT WASHINGTON, Md.—16 feet is not a lot of room when you’re facing a man trying to knock your block off.
That’s how big the ring was on Saturday night at Rosecroft Raceway for the year’s first Keystone Boxing card. For a young boxer, facing his first professional fight outside the friendly confines of the Washington Convention Center, the cramped ring, low ceiling, and vocal fans sitting just a few inches from the apron could have easily provided enough distractions to prompt a stumble. The upset-minded atmosphere was only aided by the Ravens’ double-overtime win over the Broncos, which delayed the opening bell almost an hour. But no upsets came.
Instead, NoXcuse products Kevin Rivers Jr. (above) and Jerry Odom offered dynamic, if abbreviated testaments to their potential, while a slew of other prospects including Greg Newby and Jarrett “Swift” Hurd took care of business en route to clear victories. Alantez “Sly” Fox (below) of nearby Forestville thrilled his vocal fans by out-classing Julius Kennedy of Frederick over six rounds in the main event. Fox was literally and figuratively head and shoulders above Kennedy, using his superior length, skill, and speed to box circles around the Guyana native.
Photos by Trey Pollard for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Most of D.C.’s promising young boxers continued their professional journeys unabated on Saturday night at the Convention Center, but at least one found out just how hard it is to earn a living by fighting.
Unbeaten prospects Dusty Harrison (above left), Alantez Fox, Kevin Rivers Jr. and Jarrett Hurd all scored impressive 1st-round stoppages on the Keystone Boxing card, helping the audience reach home in time to watch Juan Manuel Marquez smash Manny Pacquiao on PPV. But D.C. featherweight Shadeed Floyd (below right) became the latest local fighter to sustain his first loss against the extremely game David Huffman (below left) of Cincinnati, who is fast becoming our favorite spoiler in the sport. Also winning on the card were Dillon Hayman and Phil Jackson-Benson, while talented super middleweight Jerry Odom saw his fight turn into a no contest after a cut from a headbutt forced his opponent to quit in the first round.
Hook left, get slept.
Palmer Park, Md. featherweight prospect Kevin Rivers Jr. on his first professional knockout. Rivers needed only one punch to dispatch Bobby Wooten of Wilson, N.C. on Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
Photos by Jessica Chen for StiffJab.com
by Gautham Nagesh
WASHINGTON, D.C.—There’s no disputing the excitement of title fights, or close bouts between evenly-matched contenders. Such events are the pinnacle of boxing, and undoubtedly the goal for any person involved in the fight game. But there is something special about watching young fighters grow up, find their feet, and fulfill their potential.
A groundswell is coming in the DMV boxing scene, and Dusty Harrison is at the center. Harrison doesn’t possess the same amateur pedigree as some of his peers, and it’s far too early to tell how good the teenager can be. But after his tenth pro victory on Saturday at Washington Convention Center two things are clear: Dusty Harrison can fight, and D.C. loves watching him do it.
The local welterweight prospect stopped the overmatched Nalo Leal in the third round of the main event, capping a night of stylish stoppages by local prospects on the Keystone Boxing card. A number of local pros notched their second wins including Jarrett Hurd, Kevin Rivers Jr., Joshua “Moe” Parker and Dillon Hayman. In addition, Iraqi prospect Devar Ferhadi made a jaw-dropping debut at light heavyweight, drawing a scream of pain and capitulation from Anthony Madden after a razing him with a devastating left hook to the body.
WALDORF, Md.—A capacity crowd filled the Waldorf Jaycees Community Center on Friday night to see boxers from Maryland and the District dominate their Virginia counterparts at the Washington Golden Gloves regional championships.
After finishing our regular training session and scouring the lot for a patch of grass upon which to deposit the car, we made our way inside just as the novice division bouts were wrapping up with the superheavyweights. The open division contests pitted the D.C.-Maryland champions in the blue corner against the Virginia titlists in the red with a shot at the national tournament in Indianapolis later this month on the line.
The gentleman at the door was seemingly unmoved by your correspondent’s status as a credentialed member of the press corps so we purchased two ringside tickets and found our seats in time to see Lawrence Singh of Headbangers Gym take on Jeremy Morales of Norfolk, Va.
Singh is an impressive young man; at 16 he is poised to graduate from high school a year early so he can begin training in earnest to join the Trinidadian Olympic team. But he struggled in a rough matchup with the bigger and stronger Morales.
Following Singh’s loss his father Loknauth appeared upset but was gracious enough to expound on his son’s future plans. He pointed out the older Morales is a member of the Navy and said trials for the Pan Am Games are up next for Lawrence.
After Bowie, Md.’s Maurice Adams Jr. took the 114-lb. title in a walkover the crowd began to buzz palpably for one of the evening’s main attractions: Gary Antonio Russell, son of local trainer Gary Russell Sr. and the younger brother of junior lightweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. Another brother, Gary Allen Russell III won the 2010 National Golden Gloves 141-lb. title.
My trainer and companion for the evening Rodriguez Jackson has watched the Russell boys for years at local amateur tournaments and predicted Antonio would put on a great show at 123 lbs. against Steven Zadien of Roanoke, Va. He was right, but the bout exceeded even his high expectations.
Russell, who according to Rodriguez is 17 years old at most, came out with his hands low in a southpaw stance a la Zab Judah, wearing a white wifebeater and what can only be described as an asymmetrical pair of skorts. With his father doubtless in the corner of his older brother, who was fighting professionally the same night in San Francisco, Russell turned to veteran local trainer Barry Hunter for guidance.
Russell struck immediately with a vicious overhand left in the first, followed by a flurry of snapping shots from either fist. His stunning handspeed was immediately apparent to ringside observers as was his power, judging by the red blotches that quickly spread across Zadien’s face.
"Look at his face, he looks like he cryin’" said one observer to our rear regarding Zadien.
"He is, on the inside," responded his neighbor.
But Zadien refused to be cowed and rallied in the second, backing Russell into the ropes and catching him with a straight right that busted the teenager’s nose. With both fighters bloodied, the ref called over the doc for a pair of quick checks before continuing what was fast developing into an all-out war.
The third round saw Russell’s superior quickness and ability to string his punches together begin to wear out Zadien. To every punch from Zadien Russell replied with four. Soon Antonio had his opponent’s timing down pat and began landing his right at will. Zadien’s focus turned to surviving until the final bell, which he did to the great appreciation of the crowd.
Despite a face that looked like raw hamburger afterward, Zadien can justly claim to have gone toe-to-toe with a fighter who will doubtless be making waves of his own at some point. Antonio still has plenty of time to go before following in his older brother’s footsteps, but after winning the tournament’s outstanding fighter award he is clearly one to watch in Indianapolis.
The next bout featured another Olympic hopeful, Kevin Rivers Jr. of Landover, Md. against Andre Hunter of Chesapeake, Va. at 132 lbs. Rodriguez has known Rivers for years and told me before the fight that he was probably the best prospect in the area, which made it all the more surprising when Hunter hurt Rivers at the outset of the bout with an overhand right.
Hunter showed off a tight, compact style while Rivers appeared more rangy and less confident early. The female ref in charge of the bout did an excellent job controlling the action as Rivers began to regain his footing and caught Hunter with a left in the second round that scored a knockdown. A straight right landed next and appeared to hurt Hunter badly, resulting in another standing eight count. Hunter survived to the bell but the tide had clearly turned.
Rivers came out for the third, using his jab effectively before unleashing another combination that scored a third knockdown and prompted Hunter’s corner to stop the fight. Given the quality of his opponent and his ability to rally from being hurt early, Rivers arguably delivered the most impressive performance of the evening.
A charming and engaging young man, afterward Keith credited his opponent’s toughness and said his conditioning had pulled him through. He proclaimed himself ready to contend at both Nationals as well as the upcoming Olympic trials.
During the subsequent break to award Waldorf’s Michael Reed the 141 lb. title in a walkover, I caught up with local junior welterweight contender Lamont Peterson, in attendance to show his support for David “Day-Day” Grayton fighting in the next bout. Peterson said in addition to Grayton he was eager to see D’Mitrius Ballard take on Antoine Douglas in the 165 lb. division.
Peterson said he is currently training hard for his bout against Victor Cayo in two weeks at the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas. He called Cayo a good boxer who would struggle against someone with a similar skillset. Lamont said he plans to box early before going for a knockout in the later rounds.
As for his previous opponent Victor Ortiz, who is taking on welterweight belt-holder Andre Berto Saturday night, Peterson gave Ortiz a shot at the “W” thanks to his power but said he favors the Haitian by odds of 60 to 40.
Back to the action, Grayton took the ring for a 152 lb. title bout against Moshea Aleem of Richmond, Va. with the crowd noticeably in his corner. Rodriguez told me Day-Day is known as a brawler and the only chance for Aleem is to stay out of the path of his heavy left hand.
"If this guy [Aleem] can’t box, he’s going to sleep," Rodriguez promised.
But Aleem could box and did so to great effect in the early going, avoiding sustained exchanges by sticking, moving and dancing around the ring. The strategy appeared to be working in round two but something lit a fire under Day-Day going into the third because he came out like gangbusters.
Soon after, the ref deducted a point from Aleem for excessive holding and Grayton won a close decision thanks to his unrelenting pressure. After just one bout it was easy to see both why Grayton is one of the most exciting local prospects to watch and the deficiencies that may be exposed by a more skilled pugilist.
Lamont Peterson proved prescient after just 30 seconds of action in the following bout between Ballard and Douglas, with the latter forcing Ballard up against the ropes in the first round hurting him with a straight right to score a standing eight. Rodriguez has seen Ballard get off the mat to win before and told me the kid is tough and won’t quit, both of which proved to be true.
The second round was compelling enough that the sum total of my notes follows:
"Douglas is a beast."
"But Ballard is a tough SOB."
"Trading heavy blows."
The toe-to-toe exchanges continued into round three and shook the ring with such ferocity it threatened to come tumbling down beneath the fighters. Douglas appeared to be getting the better of the action and came away with the victory, but both men deserved to leave the arena with their heads held high.
Unfortunately that contest also signaled the end of the more competitive fights of the evening. Many casual followers of the sport lament the lack of quality competitors at the higher weight classes and the paucity of talent was on full display once again Friday night, much like my experience at the New York Golden Gloves finals last week.
Jerry Odom of Bowie, Md. bullied Antoine Ward to win the 178 lb. title while Jerrell Reeves won a forgettable superheavyweight bout against Dennis Benson. Only Zakki Scott of Temple Hills, Md. showed any real promise in triumphing over the physically imposing Keith Robertson of Virginia Beach. While Robertson appeared positively svelte for someone in the 201-lb. weight class, he was clearly gassed by the end of the fight.
Rodriguez and I both agreed Scott had shown some flashes of ability in outlasting the bigger man along with a fighting spirit that had him taunting his opponent well after the final bell. Of course like most amateur fighters, any potential success Scott may have at the next level would likely require him to drop a weight class or three in order to find his natural level.
—Gautham Nagesh from ringside.