- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

Two of Washington's former world champions will return to the ring on the same show July2, when former World Boxing Association super lightweight champion Sharmba Mitchell and former International Boxing Federation title holder Mark Johnson headline a nationally televised card at the Lincoln Theater.

Both are hoping that the Tuesday night show, to be televised on ESPN and promoted by PMG, Inc., will lead to another shot at a world championship.

"There is nothing I want more than to fight for the title again," said Mitchell, who lost his WBA 140-pound title to World Boxing Council champion Kostya Tszyu, who became an undisputed 140-pound champion by defeating IBF champion Zab Judah. "I'm glad to give area fans a chance to watch me while I patiently await the opportunity."

Mitchell tore ligaments in his left knee while training for the Tszyu fight, and entered the ring that night with his left leg numb. He managed to fight to the eighth round, and in fact was beating Tszyu, according to many ringside observers, although the judges had Tszyu slightly ahead when Mitchell could no longer continue.

After more than a year off recovering from knee surgery, Mitchell (48-3, 29 knockouts), from Takoma Park, had his first fight in March at Constitution Hall in the District, winning a tough unanimous decision over Bernard Harris. He is scheduled to face Cosme Rivera (23-7-2, 17 knockouts) on July2.

Mitchell, 31, said he hopes this fight will lead to a high-profile matchup on Showtime and possibly a rematch with Tszyu.

"[Tszyu] couldn't handle my speed," Mitchell said. "I was getting away from a lot of his power punches, from his right hand. I saw in a couple of articles after the fight he said he had to slow me down to get to me. He slowed me down by trying to throw me down. If I wasn't hurt, how could he have slowed me down?"

Mitchell also said he hopes that he will have two more fights at 140 pounds, then move to the 147-pound welterweight division. He made his pro debut in 1988 as a lightweight (135 pounds) and has been fighting at 140 pounds since 1994.

Johnson (40-3-1, 28 knockouts), the former IBF flyweight and junior bantamweight champion, had been considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing before personal problems derailed him. He missed all of 2000, serving a year in prison for a probation violation stemming from a cocaine possession conviction in 1995. And after winning his first two fights on the comeback trail, he suffered two straight losses a controversial 10-round decision to Rafael Marquez last October and again to Marquez in the eighth round of their February rematch.

A District favorite, Johnson, 30, will take on International Boxing Association super flyweight world champion Julio Coronel (21-17-1, 16 knockouts).

"I love fighting at home," Johnson said. "It gives my family and friends the opportunity to sit ringside and show me support."

This will be the second show of the year in the District promoted by PMG.

"It's not too often the display of boxing by real champions can be showcased at a local venue," said Nate Peake, president of PMG. "This is a real fight card for the fans."

There will be four undercard bouts, including a women's match between Lakeysha Williams and Julia Day.


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