Washington's Simon Brown will fight Marlon Starling for the United States Boxing Association welterweight title in the gaudiest of settings tonight. Win or lose, he will return to the humblest of training facilities.
Brown, 21, 21-0 with 15 knockouts, will meet Starling (34-3, 20 knockouts) of Hartford, Conn., in a 12-round bout at the Sands Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. (10 p.m., WBFF-TV-45). Upon his return, the Latin Connection gym awaits.
The training facility is located beneath Calvary Methodist Church at 1459 Columbia Road NW. Two Everlast bags hang from the ceiling and there is a 13- by 8 1/2-foot ring. "The small ring's an advantage," said Jose (Pepe) Correa, who trains Brown. "You don't have a place to run. This guy's stood and learned his trade."
In the cubbyhole of a gym, Brown has learned to jab and to feint, to hook and to dodge. And he's acquired his ability to knock out opponents. "Simon can hurt," says Correa.
They call him "bricklayer," says another of the gym's denizens, "because he throws bricks."
But in Brown's biggest fight to date -- a victory could bring an opportunity to fight for the world title against the winner of the Dec. 6 Donald Curry-Milton McCrory bout -- he won't be looking to put Starling on the canvas. "I don't feel I'm a knockout fighter," he said. "If that's what comes, I'd love it."
He says he also has developed a love for the gym. "It's not much, but it's home," said Brown, who has been fighting professionally for 2 1/2 years. After moving here from Jamaica when he was 13, Brown attended Theodore Roosevelt High School. He fought as an amateur for four years before turning professional.
Correa understands his fighter's attachment to the gym. "It's not very plush, but it makes you want to achieve something," said the trainer, who established the Palmer Park Recreation Center where Sugar Ray Leonard got his start. "That's our home. It's like when you have five people in one room when you were growing up. If that's all you know, it's home."
Maurice Blocker, the undefeated welterweight, and Boone Pultz, the USBA cruiserweight champion, also train there. Most of the Latin American boxers who started the gym 10 years ago no longer train actively.
"Even the guys who know it's a rinky-dink gym, they come back after their big fights," said Correa.