Perhaps Louis Curtis should have delayed his homecoming even longer. His reward for enduring an 18-month wait to defend his title? Golf-ball-size puffiness around his left eye, a cut over the other, and, to cloud his future, a technical knockout loss.
Making the first defense of the United States Boxing Association flyweight championship he won in December 1988, Curtis, a Washington native and member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, lost his title to Puerto Rico's Pedro Feliciano last night at D.C. Convention Center. Their scheduled 12-round bout was stopped by the ringside doctor after the fifth, with Curtis, 32, unable to see out of his left eye.
Feliciano (15-4-2), 30, who gained notoriety in a decision loss to highly rated Michael Carbajal in November, had Curtis in trouble from the second round on, using both hands to score from inside.
"Louis made the mistake of fighting Pedro's fight," said Lalo Medina, Feliciano's trainer. "He let Pedro attack the body instead of using his reach."
Medina said Feliciano is willing to give Curtis a rematch if the fight is in Puerto Rico. But Feliciano said he wants another shot at Carbajal if Carbajal wins a world title.
As the rounds passed, Curtis's eye worsened. The start of the fifth was delayed by 30 seconds as Curtis was examined by the ringside doctor, George Branche.
"Before the final round, his vision was obstructed, but his eye was still open," Branche said. "So I gave him one more round."
Curtis finally let loose about one minute into the fifth, landing several combinations to temporarily slow Feliciano. By that point though Curtis had the use of only one eye, prompting Branche to stop the fight at the end of the round.
"His vision was seriously compromised," Branche said. "It wasn't worth it to expose him to more danger."
It was the second consecutive defeat for Curtis (15-5-1), who lost a narrow decision to International Boxing Federation champion Dave McAuley in Belfast in March.
"Head butt," said Curtis when asked what caused the puffiness. Feliciano "was hitting me with his head the whole time."
Lightweight Sharmba Mitchell, regarded by many as the most promising fighter in the area, was successful in his first 10-rounder, a fifth-round technical knockout of Pittsburgh native Eric Podolak.
Better dressed for Independence Day -- Mitchell (17-0, seven KOs) entered the ring in red boots, blue shorts and white suspenders -- the unbeaten lightweight needed two rounds to get started before asserting himself, running a weary and bloodied Podolak about the ring.
Podolak was only half as quick as Mitchell, but proved elusive until the third, when Mitchell, 19, landed successive right hooks that drew blood from Podolak's nose.
Referee Sylvester Stevens, having seen Podolak (10-2) lose his mouthpiece a fifth time, stopped the bout at 2:41 of the fifth round.
"I would go down to the body, and he'd leave his mouth open," Mitchell said. "Then when I'd hit him upstairs, the mouthpiece would fall out."
Adrian Davis, Mitchell's trainer, said his charge "looked good. A lot of people are saying that he's not winning enough by knockout, but he's proven he can go the rounds. I'd rather see him get knockouts later."
Mitchell's next opportunity comes July 20, when he makes his main-event debut in Atlantic City.
In other preliminary bouts, two Washington-based fighters posted victories. Junior middleweight Gerry Payne (3-0) won a six-round unanimous decision over Calvin Moody (2-5) of Portsmouth, Va., and Elwyn Kemp (2-0) stopped Jeffrey Grasseis (2-2) of Pittsburgh in the second round of their four-round junior welterweight fight.