After swearing in Washington businessman Jeffrey Gildenhorn as chairman of the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission yesterday, Mayor Marion Barry admitted the city faces "an uphill battle" in hosting world-class fights, but he promised to support the effort.
"We have to show that we care about the sport and get people out to the fights," Barry said at a morning news conference at Duke Zeibert's restaurant. "Sites such as Atlantic City and Las Vegas have gambling, so they have the money to put on fights. It will be tough to get it here."
Barry stressed the need for support for amateur boxing in Washington, citing as an example the annual Mayor's Cup Tournament.
Gildenhorn, who owns the American City Diner and The Fishery restaurant, once served as the mayor's finance chairman and still is one of Barry's political advisers. He succeeds Burtell Jefferson, who resigned Saturday, as chairman of the boxing and wrestling panel.
Gildenhorn called for bouts to be held in Washington "every week, just like in the old days. I'm looking at promoters as my customers and I'll do everything I can to please my customers. We have great fighters in this area and we have several facilities to concentrate on."
The news conference was held to announce a card highlighted by the matchup between heavyweight contender Riddick Bowe (18-0) and former champion Pinklon Thomas (30-4-2). The two will fight Sept. 7 at the UDC Physical Activities Center.
Thomas, who lost the World Boxing Council title to Trevor Berbick in 1986, noted his recovery from dependence on drugs and alcohol, saying: "I've been clean for 18 months now. I know what it's like to be up and down. When I won the title, I was carried out of the ring. When I lost, I cried in my dressing room alone."
Bowe, originally from New York City and now a resident of Washington, won the light heavyweight title at the inaugural Mayor's Cup in 1985. He captured a silver medal in the super heavyweight class at the 1988 Olympics.
"This whole experience has been a learning process for me," he said. "I think I'm ready to get my degree now."
Also on the card, Washington lightweight Kenny Baysmore (24-3-2) will face Eugene Speed (18-0) and lightweight Sharmba Mitchell (18-0) will meet an opponent to be named later this week.