Johnson, the first African-American and second American to win a world flyweight title, thrust himself into helping sell the fight with bout-related appearances and interviews while being called the best fighter to come out of the D.C. area since Sugar Ray Leonard. Reportedly, in an interview with a local radio station, Leonard himself disputed that saying that he felt Johnson was the best fighter to come out of the Beltway ever, including himself.
The week briefly turned somber when Joseph Robert Jr., who used boxing as a vehicle to raise millions of dollars for children's charities through his creation of the Fight Night charity event, passed away after a brave battle against brain cancer. Robert was honored at the weigh-in and the fights with memorial10-counts.
The world title bout itself was simply the best bout I have ever seen in 27 years of covering boxing in the Washington, D.C. area. Peterson and Khan are truly championship-caliber boxers who put on performances that will be talked about for many years to come. Regardless of what fans think about the outcome, no one can deny they saw a tremendous and compelling boxing match.
Speaking of the crowd itself, D.C. has been criticized sometimes for being just an event boxing crowd – meaning that there are a lot of casual fans who come to boxing events just to be seen and they are not hardcore boxing fans.
That wasn't the case on Saturday night.
There were many passionate boxing fans who attend the club shows and the amateur boxing events in the area as well as the title fights. The partisan D.C. crowd was loud and raucous with great assistance from the many Khan fans that were in attendance.
Let's also clear up a statement that was said a lot during and after the title bout. To say that this was D.C.'s first big fight in 18 years is inaccurate. This was the first time HBO has been in D.C. in 18 years. The D.C.-area has had big fights after 1993. It had the knockout of the year in 1994 when Vincent Pettway knocked out Simon Brown to defend his IBF Junior Middleweight titles at the old USAir Arena in nearby Landover, Md. in 1994.
There was the "Triple Jeopardy" card at MCI (now Verizon) Center in 1999 where Keith Holmes and Mark Johnson won world title belts and Sharmba Mitchell defended his title against fellow local Reggie Green.
Another Beltway legend, William Joppy, also defended his title against Julio Cesar Green in 2000. And, of course, Mike Tyson lost his final bout in D.C. in 2005. All of those bouts were televised by
Showtime. ESPN and USA networks have made numerous trips to the Beltway region in the past 18 years.
To say that all of those televised cards went without controversy would also not be true. This most recent discussion is not the first referee controversy we have had in the D.C. area. Ray Klingmeyer was roundly criticized for his handling of Pettway-Brown. Malik Waleed, who worked the co-feature bout between Seth Mitchell and Timur.
Ibragimov on Saturday was caught in the middle of a controversy on an ESPN bout in D.C. in 2008 involving a head butt. But most major commissions have had their share of controversies. It's an occupational hazard in this sport.
For the moment, however, Washington, D.C. is the talk of the boxing world. The nation's capital has a brand new world's champion and a number of other young boxers who are putting themselves in positions to replicate what Lamont Peterson accomplished on December 10 th . Meanwhile, Peterson becomes the 14 th Beltway Boxer to win a world title since 1990 in what I call the "Post-Sugar Ray Leonard Era." That is something that all Beltway Boxing fans can be very proud of. "