- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

From the beginning of last night's junior welterweight bout at Lincoln Theatre, Sharmba Mitchell was the hunter and Frank Houghtaling the prey. It was Mitchell who cut off the ring and Houghtaling who often found himself against the ropes, looking for a way out. He never found it.
Mitchell, a Takoma Park native, didn't come through with a knockout but technically took apart Houghtaling to earn a unanimous 10-round decision before 1,250.
Bouncing up and down on the canvas in shorts featuring red and white strips of material running vertically from his belt, Mitchell looked fit in just his fourth fight since September2000. Two judges had Mitchell winning every round, and one had it 98-92.
"I wanted to knock him out, but if I hit him more with the left hand, he's knocked out right now, trust me," said Mitchell, who improved to 49-3. "He's probably going to get knocked out his next fight because his head is so battered. That's what I do to people."
The third-ranked World Boxing Association contender, Mitchell displayed crisp combinations in getting the result he wanted last night in preparing for his anticipated rematch with current junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion Kostya Tszyu.
Mitchell sustained a cut over his right eye as a result of a head butt in the third round. Though blood streamed from the cut from then on, he seemed to get stronger. Mitchell finished the third by pummeling Houghtaling against the ropes and continued the assault in the fourth.
After the head butt Houghtaling began to exchange verbal jabs with Mitchell, but when it came to throwing punches, he was mostly silent. Houghtaling (17-8-5) essentially wanted no part of Mitchell, continually ducking punches and keeping his gloves high while throwing few of his own. Meanwhile, Mitchell kept looking for an opening to unleash his patented 1-2 combination but rarely got to execute it.
With childhood friend Steve Francis and former Maryland Terrapins and new pros Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter in attendance, "Lil' Big Man," as Mitchell has been nicknamed, got his chance in the ninth. Sensing he had control of the fight, he began to dance around his foe and occasionally dropped his hands. He seemed poised to knock out Houghtaling in the ninth and 10th rounds but said he wanted to wait for the decision.
"He definitely wasn't going to knock me out. He didn't hit hard enough to knock me out, that's for sure," Houghtaling said. "He put his punches together good, though. I take my hat off to him."
Said Mitchell: "That's what I do to guys I beat 'em up. Pernell Whitaker couldn't knock out a fly, but he beat people."
Mitchell is still on his way back from the injury he sustained 17 months ago against Tszyu, now the reigning champion at super lightweight. Mitchell battled Tszyu nearly to a standstill Feb.3 of last year before torn ligaments in his left knee, which he had sustained in training leading up to the fight, forced him to stop following the seventh round.
He had competed just once before last night since then, winning a hard-fought 10-round unanimous decision over Bernard Harris in March2002, also in the District. But these steps the next of which could be moving to 147 pounds are all a means to the ultimate goal of securing a rematch against Tszyu.


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