Boxer Tony Ojo of Reston began seeking national recognition a year ago. His best chance may come tonight.
Ojo, 22, will fight Kevin Howard in the scheduled 10-round main event of a seven-bout card to be televised (WJLA-7) from the Crystal City Hyatt Regency. The program will start at 5 p.m. with three kick-boxing matches.
Howard was the last boxer to fight Sugar Ray Leonard. The Philadelphia welterweight knocked down Leonard in their nationally televised May 1984 meeting, but the fight was stopped in the ninth round and Leonard was awarded the decision.
Ojo (16-4, 12 knockouts) and Howard (21-6, nine knockouts) each weighed in at 152 pounds, making tonight's fight a junior middleweight contest. Although Ojo will have the crowd behind him, Howard has the edge in experience.
"Kevin Howard has fought some good people," said Jim Ed Jones, Ojo's manager and the fight promoter. "Howard's been in the thick of things. He's fought Marlon Starling (U.S. Boxing Association welterweight champion), Mark Medal (ranked fourth in the world as a junior middleweight) and Sugar Ray.
"But Ojo fought a good fighter in (Tommy) Ayers and we think he's in the same league as Howard."
Ayers, the USBA's No. 1 welterweight contender, provided Ojo his first chance for national attention. The two fought in May, but the bout ended in a loss for Ojo and a controversy that has remained unresolved.
Ojo knocked down Ayers in the first round, but Ayers went the distance, was awarded the victory and had to be carried from the fight on a stretcher. Jones immediately appealed to the District of Columbia Boxing Commission to overrule the decision, but the commission denied Jones a hearing. Now, Jones has taken the case to the D.C. Court of Appeals and is awaiting a court date.
"The only effect (the court case) has had on me was that it didn't give me an immediate chance to get a championship fight," Ojo said. "Wilfred Benitez turned me down for a fight and Vito Antuofermo said the money wasn't enough, but Howard was looking for a fight and I'm going to knock him out in the first eight rounds."