By Gary “Digital” Williams
Beltway Boxing 2017 took boxing fans in Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia to the highest of heights that were followed by moments where we now question where the area is going as it heads into 2018.
In the first two months of the year, Beltway Boxers won six titles — three world and three regional — a feat not accomplished in more than a decade.
January 14th saw Gervonta Davis win the IBF Junior Lightweight title with a seventh-round TKO over Jose Pedraza in Brooklyn, NY. On the same card, Immanuwel Aleem won the WBC Silver Middleweight title with a gutsy sixth-round TKO over previously undefeated Ievegen Khytrov.
On January 28th, Lamont Roach, Jr. captured the WBC Youth Silver Super Featherweight championship with a blistering first-round knockout of Alex Valdez in Indio, CA.
In February, locals won two more world titles and another regional title. On February 18th, Lamont Peterson won his third world belt in his second weight class earning the WBA “Regular” Welterweight title by unanimous decision over David Avaneysan in Cincinnati, OH.
One week later, Jarrett Hurd scored a ninth-round TKO over Tony Harrison in Birmingham, AL to win the IBF Junior Middleweight championship. On the same card, Alantez Fox took the vacant WBC USNBC Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Kenneth McNeil.
These big victories in the first two months paved the way for some other great victories later in the year. In March, Antoine Douglas would win a WBC Latino Middleweight title, scoring a second-round TKO in the Dominican Republic. Also, D’mitrius Ballard won the WBC USNBC Super Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Adrian Luna on May 18th in Tucson, AZ.
Then, on the same day — May 20th — Davis made the first defense of his title in London, England, brutally knocking out Liam Walsh in the third round. Hours later, Gary Russell, Jr successfully defended his WBC Featherweight championship with a seventh-round TKO of Oscar Escandon in front of his hometown fans at the MGM National Harbor Casino in Oxon Hill, MD.
Tyrieshia Douglas won the UBF Super Flyweight title on June 17th with a fourth-round TKO over Ebony Rivera at Du Burns Arena in Baltimore, MD.
On June 30th, Roach would return to Indio to defend his title by scoring a 10-round unanimous decision over Jesus Valdez. Roach would fight two more times during the year, including one on national TV at the MGM National Harbor Casino.
July saw Gerome Quigley win the USBO Welterweight title at the Sphinx Club in DC capturing a 10-round unanimous decision over Luis Hernandez. Quigley would win a German version of the WBU Middleweight title in August. Also, Antoine Douglas won the NABA Middleweight title with a fourth-round TKO over Juan DeAngel in Miami, OK.
Hurd would defend his title with a 10th round TKO over former world champion Austin Trout on October 14th in Brooklyn, NY.
On November 21st, Mykal Fox won his first regional title, capturing the UBF All-Americas Welterweight championship with an eight-round unanimous decision over Manuel Alejandro Reyes in Bethlehem, PA.
Fourteen world and regional titles won in 2017. It was, overall, a good year for Beltway Boxing. However, there were a number of defeats and draws during the year that tempered local enthusiasm.
On February 18th, Thomas Williams, Jr. was stopped in the sixth round by Marcus Browne in Cincinnati.
David Grayton fought to a technical draw against former world champion Kermit Cintron on March 17 in Reading, PA. On the same card, Moshea Aleem lost for the first time, dropping a six-round unanimous decision to Chordale Booker.
On May 6th, Emmanuel Taylor lost by fifth-round TKO to Lucas Matthysee in Las Vegas, NV. Then on June 10th, Demond Nicholson dropped a six-round split decision to Steve Rolls in Verona, NY.
July 14th saw Glenn Dezurn battle to an eight-round draw against Adam Lopez in Miami, OK.
On August 26th, Gervonta Davis won by ninth-round TKO over Francisco Fonseca in Las Vegas but lost his IBF Super Featherweight title because he did not make weight.
On October 21st, Alantez Fox suffered a separated shoulder during a unanimous decision loss to former world champion Demetrius Andrade in Verona, NY.
November was a very difficult month for Beltway Boxers. Two locals lost bouts on November 12th. Mike Reed was stopped in the second round by Jose Ramirez in Fresno, CA while Dezurn lost an eight-round unanimous decision to Jesse Angel Hernandez in Uniondale, NY.
On November 17, Kareem Martin lost by eight-round unanimous decision to Ryan Karl in Flint, MI.
November 21st saw Grayton lose a tough 10-round unanimous decision to Miguel Cruz in St. Petersburg, FL.
The year ended with two overseas knockout losses on December 16th. Antoine Douglas was stopped in the seventh round by Gary O’Sullivan in Quebec, Canada while Nick Kisner was knocked out in the fourth round by Ryan Merhy in Charlenoi, Belgium.
Most of these losses throughout the year were quality defeats that took place in front of a national television audience. Beltway Boxers made 27 appearances on national TV with a record of 13-12-2. Davis and Dezurn led the way with three TV appearances. Immanuwel Aleem, Hurd, Grayton and Roach, Jr. had two with Moshea Aleem, Douglas, Reed, Hawkins, Ballard, Taylor, White, Nicholson, Fox, Davis, Peterson, Williams, Jr., Martin, and Russell, Jr. all with one appearance. Here’s an interesting stat: At least one Beltway Boxer appeared on national television in 11 of the 12 months of the year!
The Beltway region hosted 19 cards in 2017, one more than the previous year. Maryland had a big year, hosting 11 cards compared to just three in 2016. The MGM National Harbor Casino paid huge dividends to the Free State as four high-profile cards were held there. All four were nationally televised (two by Showtime, one by HBO and one by ESPN2) and three of the cards featured world title bouts by the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Dmitry Bivol and the Beltway’s own Gary Russell, Jr.
So, the Beltway Boxing community enters 2018 with some question marks. Who will rise to the next level? Has the group of boxers called “The Next Wave” some six years ago gone as far as they can? These are questions that we will find out in 2018.
Beltway Boxing 2017 — Rookie Of The Year
This award is given to the boxer who had the best first year of anyone between November 2016 and November 2017. And for the first time, the award will be given twice. One recipient had a much anticipated first year and he did not disappoint. The other boxer came into the pro ranks under the radar but had a solid rookie season in his own right.
The 2017 Beltway Boxing Rookies Of The Year are:
Antuanne Russell (3-0, three KO’s), super lightweight, Capitol Heights, MD and Jahmal Dyer (4-0, two KO’s), lightweight, Baltimore, MD.
Russell, a 2016 United States Olympian, tailored his first-year campaign in the same way his brother, Antonio (who won this same award in 2015) did. Russell faced opponents who didn’t have the best record, however they had a lot of professional experience. Russell made his pro debut alongside his brothers on May 20th in front of his home crowd at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD, scoring a first-round TKO over Josh Ross. Then on September 19th, Russell knocked out veteran Jesus Lule in the first round on September 19th in Bethlehem, PA. Russell scored his third first-round knockout of the year in his first scheduled six-round bout as he stopped Larry Yanez on November 21st in St. Petersburg, FL. We will see if Russell will make a quick trip to even better competition in 2018.
Dyer competed without a lot of fanfare as an amateur. However, his first year as a pro gave us a number of quality bouts and performance. Dyer made his pro debut on March 30th at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, MD and participated in one of the better bouts of 2017, winning a four-round split decision over Evgueny Metchenov. Dyer then traveled to Greensboro, NC and scored a first-round TKO over Molique Artis on April 8th. Dyer returned to the Beltway and needed just 22 seconds to knock out Dwayne Martin at the Sphinx Club in DC on July 15th. Dyer concluded the year with a four-round unanimous decision over Roger Blankenship in Erie, PA on October 7. Now that Dyer is beginning to be on people’s radar. It will be interesting to see how he performs in the coming year.
Beltway Boxing 2017 — Prospect Of The Year
The Prospect of the Year fought twice in 2017 but he managed to elevate his game based on an improvement in his quality of opposition.
The 2017 Beltway Boxing Prospect Of The Year is:
Malik “Iceman” Hawkins (12-0, nine KO’s), welterweight, Baltimore, MD
Hawkins began his career in late 2014 and made steady increases in his quality of opposition. In 2016, he fought a number of veteran opponents. In 2017, Hawkins took a step up not only in his opponents but also moved to the eight-round plateau. He did not have to go the full eight rounds in either of his bouts, however. Hawkins scored a second-round TKO over previously undefeated Carlos Soto in front of a nationally-televised audience (Showtime) on April 14th at the MGM National Harbor Casino in Oxon Hill, MD. Then, Hawkins stopped Juan Jesus Rivera at the end of the seventh round at the Silver Eagle Group Arena in Ashburn, VA on November 4.
Throughout his career, Hawkins has proven he can travel and be successful and he has proven he can be a ticket draw in front of his home crowd. Hawkins should be a boxer in demand in 2018.
Beltway Boxing Bout Of The Year
Great bouts were few and far between within the Beltway limits in 2017 but a few did stand out and the bout chosen as the best of the year took place on one of the area’s highest profile cards.
The 2017 Beltway Boxing Bout Of The Year Is:
Glenn Dezurn, eight-round unanimous decision over Leroy Davila, April 14th, MGM National Harbor Casino, Oxon Hill, MD
The bout was one of the feature bouts on the card and it took place in front of a nationally televised (Showtime) audience. Dezurn was taking a step up in class as he faced a fellow undefeated boxer who was a former US amateur champion.
The two participated in some brutal exchanges in close throughout the bout. Dezurn seemed to land the harder blows in many of those exchanges. Midway through the bout, Davila altered his game plan to include side-to-side movement. However, Dezurn was successful in cutting the ring off. The two talented boxers ended the contest with a fierce eighth round that saw both men land crushing shots. All three judges scored the bout 78-74 for Dezurn, who became a fan-friendly TV boxer based on the victory. Dezurn would have two more televised bouts in 2017.
Beltway Boxing 2017 — Card Of The Year
Although we had some high-profile, nationally-televised cards in the Beltway in 2017, none of those outings compared to many of the outstanding club show cards we had in the area this year. The first card of the year set the pace for the rest of the cards to follow. As good as some of the other cards were, none of those were able to upstage this February card that included the main event boxer getting his toughest victory as a pro, two Knockout Of The Year candidates and one Bout of The Year candidate.
The 2017 Beltway Boxing Card Of The Year took place on:
February 11, 2017 at Rosecroft Raceway, Fort Washington, MD — Mykal Fox vs. Tre’Sean Wiggins, Luther Smith vs. Darnell Pierce, Gregory Clark vs. Patrick Rivera, Marcus Bates vs. Alec McGee
This King’s Promotions card had a lot of variety for the Beltway Boxing fan. The main event saw Mykal Fox face his toughest opponent and survive, winning an eight-round majority decision over a very game Tre’sean Wiggins. The co-feature had Luther Smith score a devastating first-round knockout over previously undefeated Darnell Pierce. Also, Marcus Bates stunned Alec McGee with a knockout punch just four seconds into the sixth and final round. The opening bout was a Bout of the Year honorable mention candidate as Gregory Clark won a four-round split decision over Patrick Rivera.
Beltway Boxing 2017 — Knockout Of The Year
There weren’t a lot of quality knockouts during Beltway Boxing 2017. However, a few did stand out and one, because of the quality of opposition, got the nod in a very close vote.
The Beltway Boxing Knockout Of The Year was:
Luther Smith KO 1 over Darnell Pierce — February 11th, Rosecroft Raceway, Fort Washington, MD.
Smith was making a transition from heavyweight down to cruiserweight. In his second cruiserweight contest, Smith faced undefeated Pierce of Killeen, TX who spent some time in the area in the military. The two southpaw cruiserweights were feeling each other out in the early part of the round when suddenly, Smith sent a straight right hand that landed hard on Pierce and dropped him to the canvas. Pierce barely beat referee David Braslow’s count but was not fit to continue. It was a truly stunning knockout, especially given Pierce’s won-loss record at the time. Pierce has not fought since.
Beltway Boxing 2017 — Boxer Of The Year
In this year of the Up and the Down, there was one Beltway Boxer who went up and he stayed there. In winning his world title and making his first title defense, he showed that he stands among the best in his division. Throughout his career, he has made the right moves and looks to make even bigger moves in 2018. He wins this award for the second consecutive year, becoming the third local to win this title twice and the second to win the award in back-to-back years. This year, he has this award all to himself.
The 2017 Beltway Boxer Of The Year is:
“Swift” Jarrett Hurd, (21-0, 15 KO’s), junior middleweight, Accokeek, MD
Hurd joined the elite of the junior middleweight division on February 25th in Birmingham, AL when he knocked out Tony Harrison in the ninth round to win the IBF championship. Hurd survived an early Harrison onslaught and worked his way inside to break Harrison down. This has been Hurd’s game plan throughout the big bouts in his career.
Hurd would use a similar game plan in his first title defense against former world champion Austin Trout on October 14th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. Trout, who was fighting for the first time in 17 months, was able to establish his jab in the first two rounds. Hurd started to take some control of the contest in the third as he and his challenger started to trade clean shots. Hurd showed a great chin as he was able to seemingly walk through Trout’s punches.
In the sixth round, Hurd took complete control of the contest as he hurt Trout with a right hand that staggered him into the corner. Trout, to his credit, came back in the waning moments of that round. In the seventh, Hurd suffered a cut over the left eye because of an accidental head butt but that didn’t seem to faze the champion as he caught the former WBA titleholder with a solid right hand.
Hurd was able to damage Trout’s right eye in the eighth round but Trout showed a lot of guts and was battling Hurd toe to toe. However, by the ninth, Trout’s eye was nearly swollen shut. Hurd punished Trout in the 10th round and after the round, referee Eddie Claudio stopped the contest on the advice of the ringside doctor in Trout’s corner. This was the first time Trout had been stopped in his career. Hurd is among the best at 154 pounds. The next goal should be to become among the elite in the sport.
One other note: Hurd is among the most decorated boxers in the BATB era. Not only has he won the Boxer Of The Year award twice, he scored the Knockout Of The Year in 2013 and he was the Prospect Of The Year in 2015.