When Lamont Roach Jr., born in Washington, D.C., defends his 130-pound belt against undefeated Irishman Feargal McCrory on Friday, it will be his first professional outing in his hometown area in seven years. It’s a statistic that underlines the peculiar position of boxing in the DMV – as locals refer to the area that encompasses the District of Columbia and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Plenty of top-quality pugilists have hailed from the region over the years, from Hall of Famers Ray Leonard, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and Riddick Bowe to erstwhile middleweight contenders Keith Holmes and William Joppy, to the Gary Russell brothers. But despite being an enthusiastic fight town, the nation’s capital and environs have fewer big fights to their credit than one might expect. Here’s a selection of some of the more notable ones over the years:

May 23, 1941

Joe Louis DQ7 Buddy Baer 

Griffith Stadium, Washington D.C.

The first world heavyweight championship fight to be held in D.C. seemed on the verge of being canceled as a result of rain, prompting referee Arthur Donovan to go to a bar and get drunk. He had to sober up rapidly when the rain cleared and the bout went ahead.

The fight itself got off to a dramatic start when Baer knocked Louis through the ropes in the first round. The champion, however, recovered to drop Baer heavily twice at the end of Round 6, and then once more after the bell rang to end the round. Baer’s handlers entered the ring, demanding that Louis be disqualified; when they wouldn’t leave the ring, Donovan disqualified Baer instead.

April 30, 1976

Muhammad Ali W15 Jimmy Young

Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland

An overweight and underprepared Ali struggled with the boxing skills and movement of Young, who outlanded him in jabs, power punches and connect percentage. Ali landed just 113 punches, his lowest total in a 15-round fight. But the judges penalized Young for his habit of ducking his head outside the ropes whenever Ali had him pinned, and on one occasion the move was called as a knockdown. Ali won a wide unanimous decision, much to the crowd’s dissatisfaction, but this bout is generally recognized as the beginning of Ali’s long decline.

March 31, 1980

Sugar Ray Leonard KO4 Dave “Boy” Green

Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland

Local boy Leonard was at his vicious best in this WBC welterweight defense, sandwiched between a win over Wilfred Benitez and the first fight with Roberto Duran. After peppering the outmatched Green over the first three rounds, Leonard stepped it up a notch in the fourth before knocking the Brit out cold with a devastating left hook.

May 22, 1993

Riddick Bowe KO2 Jesse Ferguson/Roy Jones Jr. W12 Bernard Hopkins

RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

The main event saw the New York City-born, DMV-residing Bowe blow away Ferguson inside two rounds. Of greater significance, however, was the co-main, in which Jones won the IBF middleweight title – his first belt – by defeating Hopkins. The contest was forgettable, but it launched a rivalry that lasted 20 years.

April 29, 1995

Bernard Hopkins KO7 Segundo Mercado/ Vincent Pettway KO6 Simon Brown

USAir Arena, Landover, Maryland

Hopkins won a middleweight title on his third attempt, and on his second against Mercado. While his first bout with the Ecuadorian, in the altitude of Quito, had resulted in a controversial draw, Hopkins left no doubt in the rematch, taking Mercado apart and stopping him in the seventh to begin a lengthy reign. The highlight of the night, however, was Pettway’s knockout of Brown in the junior middleweight main event, which left Brown flat on his back and still throwing punches while unconscious.

February 22, 1998

Mark Johnson KO1 Arthur Johnson

DC Armory, Washington, D.C.

D.C.’s Mark Johnson took a pay cut to defend his IBF flyweight crown in his hometown rather than do so in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, and the future Hall of Famer proved worth every penny, as he backed No. 1 contender Arthur Johnson to the ropes and flattened him with a right-left combination after just 71 seconds.

June 11, 2005

Kevin McBride KO6 Mike Tyson

MCI Center, Washington, D.C.

The Tyson era came to a final and humiliating end at the unlikely fists of big Irishman McBride. One year removed from his shock loss to Danny Williams, Tyson won five of the six completed rounds on two judges’ scorecards – or at least would have done, were it not for a two-point deduction in the sixth for an intentional head-butt. Tyson was by this stage growing frustrated by McBride’s physicality and refusal to yield, and to the crowd’s astonishment and fury, he stayed on his stool after the sixth.

December 10, 2011

Lamont Peterson W12 Amir Khan

Convention Center, Washington, D.C.

A raucous crowd roared on D.C.’s Peterson as he took a pair of 140-pound belts from Khan in highly controversial fashion. Khan dropped Peterson in the first round and started strong before Peterson rallied. Even so, Khan appeared to have done more than enough to retain his belts, but two baffling point deductions from referee Joseph Cooper were enough to hand Peterson victory by one point on two cards.

April 8, 2017

Vasiliy Lomachenko TKO9 Jason Sosa/Oleksandr Usyk W12 Michael Hunter

MGM National Harbor, Oxon Hill, Maryland

Neither bout is likely to feature in either man’s top three wins, although each was impressive: Sosa was the second of four consecutive Lomachenko opponents to quit, while Usyk dropped Hunter in the 12th to punctuate a comfortable decision win. But the card was notable for not only featuring two future Hall of Famers (and their compatriot, Oleksandr Gvozdyk) but also for being the first boxing event at the new MGM National Harbor.

March 24, 2019 

Sergey Lipinets TKO10 Lamont Peterson

MGM National Harbor, Oxon Hill, Maryland

If Peterson’s win over Khan was his career highlight, this may have been his lowest ebb, as he came off second-best in an absolutely brutal slugfest. Losses to Lucas Matthysse, Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr. had dropped Peterson from the title picture. After ultimately yielding to Lipinets, he immediately announced his retirement, although he would return in 2023, only to retire again after losing his comeback bout.

May 11, 2019

Julian Williams W12 Jarrett Hurd

EagleBank Arena, Fairfax, Virginia

Maryland’s Hurd was two fights removed from his epic battle with Erislandy Lara to unify three junior middleweight belts, but his homecoming defense did not go according to plan, as he suffered a second-round knockdown and an upset loss. Neither man has convinced since.

January 7, 2023

Gervonta “Tank” Davis TKO9 Hector Garcia

Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

Garcia had his moments against Baltimore’s Davis, but it was “Tank” who was in control when referee Albert Brown paused proceedings in the eighth (with some encouragement from Davis) in response to a brawl in the crowd, which had been kicked off by an altercation between rapper Meek Mill and D.C.’s Gary Russell Jr. At the end of that round, a huge Davis left hand hurt Garcia badly, and the Dominican stayed on his stool at the beginning of the ninth.

It wasn’t Davis’ biggest win against an opponent called Garcia in 2023, but in a sign of Tank’s drawing power, the $5 million-plus gate exceeded even what Tyson drew to the venue in defeat against McBride. 

Kieran Mulvaney has written, broadcast and podcasted about boxing for HBO, Showtime, ESPN and Reuters, among other outlets. He also writes regularly for National Geographic, has written several books on the Arctic and Antarctic, and is at his happiest hanging out with wild polar bears. His website is www.kieranmulvaney.com.

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