The man who introduced Suitland's Daryl Lattimore to boxing 10 years ago says the sport transformed the young man's disposition, turning the H.D. Woodson High School senior from a petulant youngster into a "truly nice guy."

Lattimore, 28, ranked sixth by the International Boxing Federation, will face ninth-ranked Kevin Pompey tonight (ESPN, 9 p.m.) at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Atlantic City for the International Boxing Council welterweight championship. Webster Jackson, Lattimore's mentor of not so long ago, says he saw the change coming all along.

"He was kind of a bad guy at Woodson," said Jackson, a security guard at the school. "He always wanted to fight. I told him to put it to good use. He knew I had once done a little boxing, and asked me if I would train him."

Lacking the time and perhaps the patience to mold the raw and "hot-headed" Lattimore, Jackson steered him -- and five other students -- to his friend Norman Smith, head of the House of Champions boxing club in Washington.

"We worked with all of them, but Daryl was the only one who stuck with it," Jackson said. "He was so dedicated I could see he had a lot of potential."

Jackson said he'll be in Atlantic City to see if that potential is realized. The left-handed Lattimore (15-3, seven knockouts), with a victory, can move toward the upper echelon of the welterweight class already occupied by two other Washingtonians, IBF champion Simon Brown and WBA titlist Maurice Blocker.

Subduing Pompey (18-3-1, 9 KOs), though, will be no easy task. The Albany, N.Y., native's last bout was against Tyrone Trice in January. He lost a 12-round split decision to Trice, who then lost a title fight to Brown last April.