Boxing Along I-495

By Ted Sares on October 14, 2012
Boxing Along I-495
Ray Leonard from Palmer Park, Maryland is considered the greatest of the Beltway greats.

A night of Ballroom Boxing is where the fighters showcase their skills early in their careers, and that’s what boxing along the Beltway is all about…

“I want to be great, something special.”—Sugar Ray Leonard

A drive on the steamy beltway along I-495 through Maryland and Virginia, and in and around Washington, DC, is one that not only takes in a number of historical sites like the many war memorials, downtown Baltimore, the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown to name a few, but one that also covers an area known for its many great fighters. With a nod to fellow-writer Gary “Digital” Williams (of Boxing Along the Beltway fame), here are some tidbits about battlers who toiled mostly after 1950.

Jimmy McAllister (53-32-2) fought out of Baltimore from 1942-1951. A “dynamite” featherweight, he once held Willie Pep to a shocking draw at the Baltimore Gardens in 1945. He duked nearly 100 times in the ‘40s and was known for his crafty style and elusive defense, not unlike Pep in that regard.

Holly Mims (68-28-6) was a DC native and fought from 1948 to 1967. He had a cast-iron jaw, was an excellent infighter with good power in both fists, and also had a fine jab and footwork. Mims was very sound defensively when he wanted to be, but since he knew he could take a good punch he often neglected (depending on who he was fighting) defense in favor of engaging in shootouts. He was only stopped once in 102 bouts and ended his career with six straight wins. He was one of the best boxers to ever come from the nation’s capital. He died at the young age of 42, and was eulogized as a champion without a crown.

Bert Whitehurst (32-26-6), like Mims, should be another familiar name to aficionados. This rugged, albeit small, heavyweight started fast, but finished badly as he fought at the highest level, losing to both Sonny Liston and Archie Moore. Some think his draw with Big Ed Sanders in 1954 contributed to Sander’s shocking death two months later at the hands of Willie James.

Josh Hall (20-6) was a tough and fan–friendly light heavyweight from Baltimore who won his first 10 before being beaten by crafty Bob Benoit

Johnny Gant (45-15-3) was a rugged and willing welterweight contender out of Baltimore who could never win the big one. He lost to the Brothers Leonard, Ray and Roger, but did manage a draw with Harold Weston in 1975.

Roland Pryor (28-7) hailed from DC, was a fixture along the Beltway during the ‘70s, and won 21 of his first 22 before stepping up in class. He lost to crafty Ronnie Harris and undefeated Art McKnight but managed a win over the aptly named Percy Pugh (46-26).

Sugar Ray Leonard (36-3-1) from Palmer Park, Maryland, is an International Boxing Hall of Fame member and a rare quintuple world champion. He was named Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s. He won the light welterweight gold medal for the U.S. at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada. He is considered the greatest of the Beltway greats and an All-Time Great worthy of his own article if not book.

Roger Leonard (16-1) was overshadowed by brother Ray, but he fought and beat stiff opposition including Clyde Gray (68-9-1 coming in) and Johnny Gant (45-13-3).

Boone Pultz (25-3) won the vacant WBO cruiserweight title in 1989 by SD over Magne Haynaa in Denmark, but lost it in a rematch six months later. Pultz then won seven in a row before retiring in 1995, but an inexplicable comeback in 2006 resulted in a 2-2 mark. The affable Boone is now enjoying life outside of boxing.

Reuben “Ratman” Bell (13-2) was a ferocious puncher. Sadly, he was murdered in 1998 a few months after losing to Simon Brown. Another Beltway life snuffed out too soon.

Leslie Johnson (21-3) was a power punching middleweight out of Rockville, Maryland. The well-liked Johnson had to stop boxing due to a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.

Antonio DeBarros (21-2-1) was a tough light welterweight out of DC whose two losses were by SD. His best win may have been against Felix “The Cat” Dubray in 1989.

Maurice “The Thin Man” Blocker (36-4) was world welterweight champion and won his first 24 bouts before losing to Lloyd Honeyghan in London.

Chuck “Pit Bull” Sturm (33-5-2) once fought for the IBO lightweight title. He was recently inducted into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.

Simon “Mantequilla” Brown (47-12) was a gritty global road warrior and two division world champion from Jamaica who fought out of Maryland.  He had stoppage wins against Shawn O’Sullivan, Terry Norris, Maurice Blocker, Jorge Vaca, and Tyrone Trice among others. His fight with Trice (28-1 at the time) in Pas-de-Calais, France was an incredibly exciting affair with ebb and flow and blood and guts. Both fighters had been down, but Trice tired late and Brown finished him off in the 14th round with punishing shots from all angles. If Jamaica has a Boxing Hall of Fame, “Mantequilla” belongs in it.

Vincent “The Ambassador” Pettway (43-7-1) was an IBF light middleweight titlist. Few were more exciting battlers than “The Ambassador.” His knockout of Simon Brown is among the scariest ever seen as Brown’s arms gestured in the air while he remained unconscious. He is now in the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame.

Jerry “The Technician” Ballard (21-2-1) had an amateur record that was an amazing 61-2. Like the “Ratman,” he was another monster puncher whose life was cut short when he was stabbed to death in a DC alley in 1999. At the time, he was rebuilding his career after a tough knockout loss to future WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz in1998

Andrew “Of War” Council (31-8-3) was a great body puncher who once TKO’d Buddy McGirt, but lost in several title attempts.

Derrell “Too Sweet” Coley (38-2-2) won the NABF welterweight title in 1994, but lost it to underrated Oba Carr in a controversial SD in 1995. He regained the title in 1996. Coley won a closet classic against Kip Diggs in 1997 in one of the most exciting fights ever, but one that flew well under the radar. After dropping “Too Sweet” three times, Diggs himself was dropped for good 12 seconds into the eleventh round of an incredible barnburner in California. “Too Sweet” also drew with exciting Lonnie Smith and stopped durable 46-year-old Saoul Mamby, the only time Sweet Saoul was ever halted.

Kenny “The Technician” Baysmore (28-13-2) won his first 20 (18 by KO) and lost his last eight (all by KO). But he won the USBA super featherweight title on two different occasions and also won the IBC Continental Americas lightweight title in 1992 (his last win). The Technician, if nothing else, was exciting.

Percy “No Mercy” Harris (15-4) had his last two fights (both losses) in 1992 against Lamar Parks (20-0) and Roy Jones Jr. (19-0). He also lost to a young Bernard Hopkins in 1990. In between, he beat Thomas Tate (22-0 coming in) and Ralph Moncrieff. His level of opposition and great amateur career were enough to get him inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame

Darryl Tyson (50-14-1) was an NABF light welterweight champion. Tyson fought all comers and won many regional titles along the way including the USBA light welterweight title in 1993 when he decisioned bomber Roger Mayweather in Atlantic City.

Reggie “Showtime” Green (33-5) lost to Darryl Tyson in 1994 by SD, but his most famous fight probably occurred in 1999 when he lost to Irish Micky Ward by a TKO in the 10th and final round in a closet classic that had to be seen to be believed. I was fortunate enough to see this one live in Salem, New Hampshire and wrote about it in Boxing Is My Sanctuary. Showtime” also lost to fellow Beltway fighters Darryl Tyson and Sharmba Mitchell

Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson (44-5-0) was an avoided opponent largely because he was highly skilled. He also was a two-division world champion. Many thought he was through, but then beat undefeated Fernando Montiel and followed up with a waxing of Colombian Louis Bolano in another shocker. Bolano would never be the same, going on to lose 10 in a row. Johnson was the first African-American boxer to capture a world flyweight title. In 2012 he was inducted into the IBHOF.

Lamont “Bay” Pearson (23-4-1) was another fast starter who won the NABA super featherweight title in 2000 and the USBA super featherweight title in 2001 and again in 2005

Beethavean Scottland (20-6-2), known as Bee, died after his grueling battle with light heavyweight George Jones on the deck of the U.S.S. Intrepid in July 2001. It was televised. Few who watched it will never forget when a young Max Kellerman shouted, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s it! That’s it!” Scottland, he observed, is “too tough for his own good…This is how guys get seriously hurt…I prefer referees who err on the side of caution.” At the end of the beatdown, Max said, “I feel nauseated. I feel sick. Damn it, why does this have to happen?”

Eric Aiken (16-7-1) had an astonishing amateur career of 97-5 and won the IBF featherweight title in 2006 by a DQ over Valdemir Pereira. He lost it in his first defense and never regained form.

Keith Holmes (41-5) was a tough two-time WBC middleweight titleholder. He defended the title twice before losing the belt to Hassine Cherifi in 1998 but regaining it in a rematch. He has not fought since 2009 but says he may be coming back—ill-advised as that may be.

Sharmba “Little Big Man” Mitchell (57-6) was a popular junior welterweight champion and highly skilled in his prime. He won his first 31 bouts. On tap for Mitchell is a well-deserved induction into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
William Joppy (39-6-1) was world middleweight champion on three different occasions. Joppy stopped an aging Roberto Duran in 1998 which likely did not endear him to Old School fans. He often retires and then comes back and then retires but regardless, he is near the end.

DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (39-19-1) is a former WBO light welterweight champ and is still in the mix, making a last and surprisingly decent run. In fact, he chopped chopped touted Paul McCloskey in Belfast in May. This upset followed a UD over Gabriel “Tito” Bracero earlier in the year. The 38-year-old Corley is scheduled to fight Viktor Postol (19-0) on October 27 in the Ukraine. Stay tuned.

Corey Sanders (23-13) was from Washington, DC. He was a fringe contender in the heavyweight division. His best showing was a shocking KO of Oleg “The Big O” Maskaev in 2002.

Clarence “Untouchable” Vinson (17-2) was as slick as his nickname but lost a bid for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental bantamweight title in 2004 to Cesar Morales.

Hasim “The Rock” Rahman (50-8-2-1) iced Lennox Lewis in 2001 to win the WBC, IBF, and IBO heavyweight titles. While always a factor, he always struggled against top level opposition. The Rock’s one big moment was the Lewis win; he now needs to retire.

Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell (25-0-1) is a fast improving and popular crossover heavyweight out of Brandywine, Maryland. He is firmly in the heavyweight mix, and his next battle is with Johnathon Banks (28-1-1) which should tell us a lot about this former Michigan State football player’s future.

Ishmail “The Arsenal” Arvin (15-2) lost his last outing to Pawel Wolak in 2010 and may have called it quits. His “win” over Anthony “The Messenger” Thompson in 2008 was one of the most bizarre ever seen in the DC area. Thompson, who had floored Arvin twice and was comfortably ahead on the scorecards, had sustained a hideous cut over his eye that eventfully would prevent him from continuing. The cut was caused by a head butt in the third round. Everyone in the house and everyone watching on television knew it; that is, everyone but ringside officials—even though they saw it as plain as day on the ESPN replay. First, they were shown the clash of heads. Then they were shown the blood immediately flowing as a result of the clash. Two certainly follows one, doesn’t it? Not in DC, where they apparently believe in killing the messenger. To my profound disgust, the decision was left to stand.

Jimmy Lange (38-4-2) is a Virginia-based fighter and promoter who has captured a number of regional titles. Joey Gilbert seems to have his number, but Lange has nevertheless run up a fine record. He has only lost one in his last 14 outings and is on a seven-fight win streak. The charismatic Jimmy is a fan-friendly fighter who may be headed for bigger and better things. In fact, many have said that he has brought boxing relevance back to the DC area

Daniel “The Prophet” Attah (26-12-1) is a Nigerian-born boxer who fights out of DC. After a fast pro start in which he went 20-0-1, Attah lost to Brazilian bomber Acelino “Popo” Freitas with the WBA and WBO super featherweight titles at stake. Things have gone south since. He has lost five in a row (three in 2012) to stiff opposition. For his own sake, he needs to think about retiring. 

Mike “The Persecutor” Paschall (22-2-1) has won three in a row, but lacks the pop to compete at the top level. Still, he has been game and willing and is fun to watch.

Jessie “Beats” Nicklow (22-3-3) is also game but falters every time he moves up. Curiously, he has a knack for fighting many opponents twice.

The Peterson Brothers, Lamont and Anthony, are arguably are the biggest thing to hit the Beltway boxing scene since Obama. Lamont and Anthony were left without parents at an early age, with their mother disabled and their father in prison. The brothers were homeless when they were noticed by Barry Hunter, a savvy boxing coach. Over time Hunter developed their boxing skills while mentoring them and both brothers morphed into amateur boxing stars. After winning national amateur laurels, Lamont “Havoc” Peterson won his first 27 professional outings. Lamont battled Timothy Bradley for Bradley’s WBO light welterweight title in December, 2009, and gave a great account of himself. He won fans with his game, albeit losing, effort. Lamont (now 32-1-1) broke the Amir Khan bubble as he won the WBA and IBF light welterweight titles on 2011 with a display of grit and determination. He is now on tap to fight Bradley again. Anthony (31-1) lost badly to rugged Brandon Rios but bounced back with a win over the aforementioned Daniel Attah in 2011, but he needs to get more active.

Fernando Guerrero (24-1) is a fan-friendly middleweight from the Dominican Republic who now lives in Salisbury, Maryland and calls himself “Warrior of the Cross.” He has now won three in a row after having been shocked and stopped by Grady Brewer in June 2011. He continues to be a promising work in progress.

Larry “The Laser” Marks (29-11-1) has now wound down as his laser lost its beam, but he fought all comers and has a career with which to be proud. The Warrior needs to regroup and carefully move his way back into the limelight.

Darnell “Ding-A-Ling Man” Wilson (24-15-3) has been in a terrible slump losing nine of his last 10, but his one win was truly a shocker against Juan Carlos Gomez, in Hamburg, Germany no less. Of course Ding-A-Ling will always be known for his near decapitation of Nigerian (and now fellow Beltway resident) Emmanuel Nwodo (24-5) in 2007 on Friday Night Fights.

Tim “Pitbull” Coleman (19-3-1) must regroup after stoppage losses to Kendall Holt and Vernon Paris and a gift win over Mike Arnaoutis.

Calvin Woodland (19-5) is a DC-born lightweight who had a nice if not long career. But what defined it was that he beat Willie Pep (229-10-1 coming in) in 1966. It would be Willie’s last fight and that’s more than enough to earn Calvin a spot on this list.

So the next time you have a yen for the best steamed blue crab dinner in the world, head down to Baltimore (or maybe Hagerstown or Ocean City) and have a feast at one of the many great eateries. Steamed crabs and cold beer in a South Baltimore rowhouse restaurant that traces its roots to the working-class is very close to heaven. And if you do this after a night of Ballroom Boxing where the fighters get a chance to showcase their skills early in their careers, well, heck, that’s what boxing along the Beltway is all about.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Sugar Ray Leonard vs Johnny Gant TKO knock out

Luis Rodriguez W 10 Holley "Holly" Mims, round 6

Sonny Liston UD10 Bert Whitehurst Part 1/4

felix trinidad vs maurice blocker (full fight)

Simon Brown Knock Out

Keith Holmes vs Andrew Council (1999-09-24)

Willy Wise vs Derrell Coley

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Darryl Tyson

Micky Ward vs Reggie Green

Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson vs. Arthur "Flash" Johnson pt. 2

Lamont "Bay" Pearson vs. Orlando Salido

Keith Holmes vs Andrew Council (1999-09-24)

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Sharmba Mitchell Pt.3

Roberto Duran Vs William Joppy-Full Fight

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  1. the thresher 05:24am, 10/16/2012

    Bob was a native of New Mexico and though he fought his first pro fight in D.C., he became a classic road warrior. I purposely did not include him. He did have several fights in D.C., but he also had several in New Orleans and in other spots.

  2. Mike Silver 06:48pm, 10/15/2012

    Wasn’t Bob Foster out of D.C.? At one time Baltimore was a major fight venue boasting six world champs between 1902 and 1940, beginning with the great Joe Gans. I highly recommend “Baltimore’s Boxing Legacy 1893 - 2003” by Thomas Scharf. Loaded with pics of Baltimore’s best.

  3. EZ E 05:57pm, 10/15/2012

    As for Calvin Woodland, in my early teens I remember going to his Sunnyside Garden fight vs the then prospect Victor “Vitin” Melendez. Me and Edwin Viruet got in free carrying Melendez’s bag and robe into the arena. Woodland lost that night but then turned around and beat Willie Pep shortly after. Some time later I tagged along with my uncle and his fighter Angel Rivera, for a drive to D.C. Rivera faced Woodland that night, Buddy Boggs was also on the card. Calvin stopped Rivera in the third round. He seemed to hurt Rivera with every shot landed, which surprised me because I didn’t remember him hurting Melendez at all.

  4. Tex Hassler 05:56pm, 10/15/2012

    Thanks Mr. Sares, this article brought back a lot of good memories. Well written and well researched. Great article.

  5. THE THRESHER 05:24pm, 10/15/2012

    Yes, Herbie Lee belongs here. He won 27 and lost 13 and was from D.C.

    Good one.

  6. peter 05:16pm, 10/15/2012

    Didn’t Herbie Lee fight in NYC, at the Felt Forum, back in the late ‘60s or early 70s?  I could have sworn I saw him box there. His photo is on an old “Flash Gordon” fight card. But a Felt Forum fight isn’t mentioned on BoxRec. Perhaps he got scratched from the card and I simply don’t remember? The only mention of Herbie Lee fighting in NY is at the National Maritime Union Hall. Strange—he lost a decision to Toro.

  7. the thresher 04:49pm, 10/15/2012

    OK EZ E. they get on

  8. EZ E 03:50pm, 10/15/2012

    Great article!! Hey Uncle Teddy, do you think we can/could consider Alvin Anderson, Buddy Boggs, Vernon Mason or Sweet Herbie Lee for a “Honorable Mention” category of the list?? No, they weren’t ‘world beaters’ but had a way of keeping the spectators on their feet.

  9. peter 02:15pm, 10/15/2012

    Excellent concept for an article—it resurrects the memory of many fine fighters. Thanks!

  10. the thresher 11:40am, 10/15/2012

    Baltimore has had so many great fighters. It’s great fight town.  Pettway and Simon Brown brought the heat. These guys were warriors. The fight with Trice has to be seen to be believed.

  11. Mike Casey 10:05am, 10/15/2012

    Ted is quite right about the talented Holly Mims. Just take a look at the illustrious names on his record. A really tough and cute cookie.

  12. dollarbond 08:10am, 10/15/2012

    2 great towns and how appropriate to be the site of many great fights

  13. the thresher 07:47am, 10/15/2012

    Irish, many thanks. I worked my fat ass off on this one, though I have lost 61 pounds so the ass is not as big as it used to. Just the ego. :)

  14. the thresher 06:27am, 10/15/2012

    John , the two best dinners I ever had in my life were in Baltimore.

    One was a steak dinner at Teo Pepie’s during a celebration of a successful labor negotiation. I cut that steak with a spoon it was so tender.

    The other was at a crab house named Gunnie’s in a blue collar neighborhood and those crabs were so good, they talked to me before I cracked them with the hammer.

    You feeling me on this?

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 06:25am, 10/15/2012

    Ted Sares-Great research and reporting….my favorite will always be Keith Holmes for telling it like it is and calling Hopkins a “purse snatcher”!

  16. the thresher 06:24am, 10/15/2012

    Bob, are you being truculent?

  17. john coiley 06:09am, 10/15/2012

    Baltimore’s crabs might take precedence over fight night in some cases.

  18. Bob 05:53am, 10/15/2012

    A 12-7 record in the early 1950s meant a lot more than it would mean today, plus he was a popular, crowd-pleasing local attraction. Plus he raised a standup kid, who never forgot his idol, Harry Jeffra, long after so many other people did.

  19. the thresher 05:34am, 10/15/2012

    ok ok, the Dew Drop Inn is enough to get Junior a mention. But 12-7 may not be enough. :)

  20. Bob 05:31am, 10/15/2012

    Lou Benson Jr. was mentored early on by his father, Lou Sr., a 1950s heavyweight who compiled a 12-7 (7 KOs) record between 1952 and 1955, and the great Harry Jeffra who belongs in the Hall of Fame. Lou Jr. lobbies for him every year, to no avail. Lou Jr. also runs the Dew Drop Inn in Baltimore County. Great steamed shrimp and Lou is a great raconteur.

  21. the thresher 05:11am, 10/15/2012

    HMM, I did say, “here are some tidbits about battlers who toiled mostly after 1950”

    I’m going to leave it up to the posters to add to the list afterwhich, we shall have the most complete list on record

    Thanks Bob. My bad.

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