The L-shaped building sits on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Lamont Street, right next to the Northwest Baptist Church. The trailer in the dirt lot sells fireworks and snow cones. A small sporting goods store is in the front of the building. The House of Champions Sports Complex is fairly simple. So is Darryl Tyson's goal.
"I'm striving to be a champion," he says, and says often.
Tyson has been living for the past six months in an apartment on the second floor of the building. It is comfortable but hardly opulent. Boxing magazines lie on the table, and the television is connected to a VCR that he uses to watch tapes of himself and other fighters.
Below the apartment is a gym, and the first thing you notice is the swivel sound and the floor shaking caused by the heavy bag being pounded by a boxer below. It is one more reminder of what Tyson is all about: a 24-year-old Washington lightweight who wants to be king.
The 5-foot-7, 135-pound pro will fight in the main event Saturday night at the D.C. Convention Center when he takes on Melvin Paul of New Orleans, and they've found a title to put up for the 12-round bout: the vacant Continental American lightweight championship. Tyson is 21-1; Paul is 20-5.
This is not the title Tyson has been boxing nine years to attain, but a title nonetheless. Ranked 15th in the world by the International Boxing Federation, Tyson would like a shot at the IBF belt by year end. Another Paul, Jimmy Paul of Detroit, is the current champion. Tyson beat him in October 1983.
At a press conference yesterday, Amin Muslim of Monumental Productions, promoting Saturday's card, announced that his group had reached a tentative agreement with Hector Camacho's representatives for a September match with Tyson in Washington. Tyson was scheduled to fight the World Boxing Council's top contender Feb. 2, but Camacho scratched with a sprained ankle. Tyson and his handlers say Camacho was scared.
Camacho is booked to challenge Jose Luis Ramirez for the WBC title Aug. 10 in Las Vegas.
Though getting impatient, Tyson will wait. Born in Washington, Tyson is one of eight children brought up by his mother and grandmother. One of his older sisters died of breast cancer a few years ago, leaving behind a daughter. That loss only heightened Tyson's determination.
"We lived on Bay Street, Fifth Street, P Street . . . we were always moving around," Tyson said. "We all hung together, getting jobs. We were one big family, pulling together to try and help one another.
"My father left home when I was about 6 or 7, I'm not quite sure. He went to live with his father in Farmville, N.C. A man's got to be a man, and do whatever he has to do to make a living. I don't feel bad about him at all. He's the only father I got and I'll love him until I die."
The father figure role in Tyson's life has been assumed by his manager, Norman Smith, with considerable help from trainer Bobby Brown and former Olympic boxing coach Pappy Gault, who leases the building where Tyson lives and works.
"He talks to me about a lot of the things that my father would have said," Tyson says of Smith. "He's like a father to me."
Smith and the others have instilled a new attitude in Tyson since he came to the gym four years ago. Tyson admits he used to be as ornery as the mangy-looking German shepherd that guards the side door.
"I've improved in several ways as far as attitude and discipline," said Tyson, his piercing eyes adding conviction. "I've also become a better person. I get very mean, especially when I have a fight. My attitude was a little mean, a little arrogant and I didn't want to talk to people. I was always to myself, but when you're in the public eye you have to be more friendly.
"My mind was in one direction -- being a champion."