- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 2, 2002

Whether 911 Mike Tyson fights in Washington or not, boxing is coming back to the District later this month in an event that could be considered the anti-Tyson promotion.

A longtime local favorite, former World Boxing Association super lightweight champion Sharmba Mitchell, is stepping into the ring for the first time since he was injured during his title loss to Kostya Tszyu in February 2001.

Mitchell is from Takoma Park and, though only 31, has been a fixture on the professonal fight scene in and around Washington since he made his professonal debut at 18. Two of his three title defenses were in the District, so it is a nice touch to have him return to boxing in his hometown.

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But what makes this the anti-Tyson affair are the venue and the beneficiaries of this March 28 show. Mitchell will be the main event, facing Puerto Rico's Luis Maysonet, at the first professional fight card ever held at DAR Constitution Hall, in a charity boxing show that will raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic region.

It is a historic moment, when you consider the site. There was a time when a prizefight between black and Hispanic fighters in Constitution Hall would have been unthinkable.

Now it symbolizes a city coming together for a boxing event, instead of the one that has divided the city, the one that the boxing commission and the mayor have embraced for the almighty buck a deception by the way, since no one who has invested any money in 911 Mike Tyson since 1997 has made a dime (unless, of course, they were beaten up by him, as was a British promoter who wound up collecting several million because of it after the Lou Savarese fight two years ago).

"This is really out of the box," said lawyer Jeff Fried, who, along with partners Rock Newman and Nate Peake, is promoting the fight. "This is a unique event with the right venue and the right ambiance for the return of Sharmba Mitchell."

It's much more than that, though. There will be at least three well-known local celebrities who will serve as guest ring announcers Tommy Jacamo, owner of the Palm restaurant; real estate developer Doug Jemal and local publisher Bill Regardie and other festivities in what amounts to a mini-Fight Night, the annual boxing charity event held by Joe Roberts. "It's a night that will bring many people in the community together," Fried said.

Mitchell (47-3, 29 knockouts) is coming back from a disappointing battle in February 2001 against Tszyu, now the reigning undisputed 140-pound champion. Mitchell had injured his left knee just before stepping into the ring to face Tszyu, in what was the biggest fight of Mitchell's career and what could have propelled him among the elite in the sport. Even with a bad knee, Mitchell managed to give Tszyu a tough fight until he could no longer continue after the seventh round. In fact, he gave Tszyu a far tougher fight than International Boxing Federation champion Zab Judah, who was stopped by Tszyu in their unification bout.

Mitchell underwent surgery to repair ligaments in the knee and has been working in the gym to strengthen it for his return and his quest to get another shot at Tszyu. Maysonet (31-9, 25 knockouts) is his first step toward that goal. He had hoped for a bigger name for his first fight back. "I wanted to come back and do something bigger, maybe like [fighting Hector] Camacho, Jr.," he said. "But they wanted me to have a warmup fight, although this is something bigger than just a warmup fight."

Camacho could be Mitchell's next opponent if he defeats Maysonet, and then he has his sights set on Tszyu. "I have some unfinished business to take care of," Mitchell said.

The contrast between an event like this and the debacle of a Lewis-Tyson fight cannot be ignored. Granted, this show is not the international event that a Lewis-Tyson fight would be, but it is also not the international embarrassment a Lewis-Tyson fight would be either. If and this is a big if a Lewis-Tyson fight would actually come off in the District, could anyone feel good about the notoriety that would come with it and the very real fear of a disaster that accompanies every fight 911 Mike is involved in?

Even Newman, who has publicly backed a Lewis-Tyson fight here, realizes that this event symbolizes something far different for the city, and for boxing here, than a Lewis-Tyson fight. "This has the potential to breathe fresh air into boxing in the District," Newman said.

The shame is that if a Lewis-Tyson fight is made here in June, this fresh air will be replaced by the stench of all that is wrong with the sport today, and some in the District may never be able to get rid of the smell that will follow them around.

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