As the sun set beyond the west windows Thursday night at the Glenarden Municipal Town Center, the evening's professional boxing card threatened to set with it. Originally scheduled for eight bouts, it was six by midafternoon, then down to four by 7:30 p.m.
And even a few of those fights seemed iffy.
With the first match scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., a few boxers had yet to turn up. Concern, however, appeared to be minimal among the crowd of about 300. Referees talked about their golf games ringside as the ring announcer Henry Jones briefly tried his hand at stand-up comedy. As the clock moved toward 9 p.m., Jones employed more delaying tactics--introducing just about anybody who was somebody in the house, then conducting interviews with the round-card women. There were no complaints about the latter.
Finally, at 8:45, the evening's first--and shortest--fight began with a heavyweight tilt between Maurice Gray of Hillcrest Heights and New Jersey's Jerry Arentzen. Their combined record was 5-12-1 but never mind that, this was the very definition of a club fight. It didn't last five minutes, but it was a brawl.
Gray won it when referee Malik Waleed stepped in at 1 minute 36 seconds of the second round, signaling that Arentzen had enough. Gray's left hook to Arentzen's head was a determining factor in Waleed's decision.
"It was a tough fight, but I had to win it . . . I had all my family here," Gray said. He exited the ring to the waiting arms of his grandmother, who planted a big kiss on his cheek. Hugs and kisses followed from his sister, mom, two nephews and two cousins.
Gray, 33, said the win was dedicated to his late cousin, "Cousy Wousy." He wore a T-shirt with Cousy Wousy on the front, and the words "In Loving Memory of--There Was No One Like" above his portrait.
About an hour and two less-than-memorable bouts later came the night's main event, a 130-pound affair between Capitol Heights' Lamont Pearson and Leon Smith of the District. Smith came in with a respectable but deceptive 7-1-2 record--deceptive because this was just his second fight in six years.
Though Smith appeared rusty, his entourage definitely wasn't. A true posse of about 20 to 25 rocked and rollicked to a pulsating bass as Smith entered the ring, repeatedly shouting "No joke!"--one of Smith's nicknames--as the backbeats shook the house.
Pearson came in with a strong following of his own, many brandishing T-shirts and apparel from the Bay-Rex clothes boutique Pearson co-owns in Temple Hills.
When the bell rang, however, it wasn't the clothes that made the man, rather it was Pearson's right hand. Pearson, in spiffy black-and-aqua trunks with "Bay-Rex" stitched along the back, delivered a straight right to Smith's head midway through the first round that sent Smith sprawling. Referee Bill Holmes looked into Smith's eyes as the fighter got to his feet and apparently missed the glaze. When the round ended, Smith, clearly still disoriented, went to a neutral corner instead of his own.
Smith managed to make it through the second round before Pearson finished him with an unanswered flurry in the third. Holmes ended it at 2:30, waving Pearson away.
"Once I landed that right in the first, I knew I had him," Pearson said. "He didn't seem the same after that."
Pearson (7-0-1) could face a more stern test in his next fight. Kelly Swanson, who manages Landover's Jermaine Fields (17-0), watched Pearson on Thursday and said a Fields-Pearson bout is a strong possibility, perhaps sometime next month at Michael's 8th Avenue in Glen Burnie.
"I've fought Jermaine as an amateur," said Pearson, 28. "I'd love to get the chance to fight him again."