- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 1, 2008

Boxing is on the ropes in the national sports landscape, often described by observers these days as a “niche” sport.

If so, that niche is in the suburbs, where boxing is far from down for the count. In the D.C. area, in particular, the sport is thriving as spectator event: Five shows will be staged locally in November, the first one Saturday night at the Patriot Center.

Jimmy Lange, a Northern Virginia fan favorite who has become a sports franchise of his own, makes his return to the ring after a 17-month layoff to face Grover Wiley in the main event.

The show also features Baltimore’s Jessie “The Beast” Nicklow against Charlottesville’s George “War Time” Rivera and Jaime “The Punisher” Palma of Alexandria squaring off against Dean “Pit Bull” White of Smithsburg, Md.

Lange has put on several shows at the Patriot Center, drawing remarkable crowds of 3,000 to 5,000 for what amounts to, for the most part, a club fighting card.

On Friday, promoter Bobby Magruder is bringing a show to The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro - a card that will feature a host of heavyweights, including rising star Seth Mitchell of Waldorf, Md., Horace Grant and longtime local favorite Boone Pultz.

A week later, another local boxing favorite, Tony Jeter of Columbia, Md., along with Mo Better Promotions, will put on their second fight card at the Maryland Sportsplex in Millersville, Md.

On Nov. 20 comes Ballroom Boxing at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, Md., the longtime promotion that created a successful blueprint for events in the area.

And then there is the annual “Fight Night” charity event Thursday at the Washington Hilton, an event that attracts the biggest power brokers in the District to a night of live boxing and mingling with legends of the sport.

That’s a healthy calendar of events for a sport that supposedly has seen its better days. Besides the cool nicknames, what’s the attraction?

For some, it is fighters such as Lange with a large and loyal local following. But it is also, as Don King would say, “something kinda different” for fans to see live.

“People know me, and my appearance on ‘The Contender’ gave me a wider fan base,” Lange said. “They feel they have more invested when they come to see me than they do some fighter on a pay-per-view show. And there is nothing like boxing live, the intensity and electricity of a live fight.”

Magruder is taking a step up with his fight card at The Show Place Arena. He has put several shows on at the Waldorf Community Center that did well enough for him to seek a bigger venue.

“We are taking a shot,” Magruder said. “People will come out if you put on the right show. Boxing is a great atmosphere. People like the action.”

Jeter and Mo Better Promotions put on their first show in September at the Maryland Sportsplex, and it did well enough that they are jumping back in for a Nov. 14 show.

“It’s a great night out, and I think part of the attraction is you have local fighters that people know with a following,” Jeter said. “We are just getting started, and we are looking to grow.”

Throw in a show on Nov. 26 in Woodlawn, Md., just outside of Baltimore, and you have as many boxing shows nearby as you do Capitals hockey games at Verizon Center for the month of November.

Not bad for a “niche” sport.

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