The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Beltway Battles’ series strives to give boxing in D.C. a fighting chance again

Anthony Peterson dispatches Saul Corral via sixth-round knockout at Entertainment and Sports Arena

Anthony Peterson connects on Saul Corral on Saturday night. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
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On a typical fight night when Dusty Hernandez-Harrison was still in the ring, the welterweight contender from the District would have been in the locker room reviewing strategy, limbering his body and summoning the mental fortitude required to thrive in hand-to-hand combat.

But Saturday afternoon, the undefeated boxer turned promoter was in search of ice. That request came from pugilists and their handlers several hours before the first bout of “Beltway Battles: Round 2,” the second of three local cards Hernandez-Harrison is promoting at Entertainment and Sports Arena with the aim of restoring the sport’s profile in the nation’s capital.

“I was a firm believer being a fighter was the hardest job in the world,” said Hernandez-Harrison, who has been inactive since February 2020, when he improved to 34-0-1. “It was a 24-hour job. Your lifestyle is changed. I now know it is the second-hardest job. Excuse my language, but this [expletive] sucks. You don’t realize how much goes into it.”

Hernandez-Harrison was speaking partially in jest, but the many duties he is responsible for include handling the fighters’ travel arrangements, ensuring proper medical care at ringside and arranging arena security. He even made the rounds in the surrounding parking lots, speaking with attendants about the procedures.

Hernandez-Harrison is the founder of DHH Promotions, which has partnered with other promotions, including Rising Star and TCMBF Boxing, for three cards featuring fighters from in and around the District headlining the main event and co-feature.

Appearing in Saturday’s co-feature was Anthony Peterson, the 37-year-old D.C-born and -raised super lightweight who ended a 9½-month hiatus to dispatch Saul Corral via sixth-round knockout in the card’s penultimate bout. The main event between Bowie’s Greg Outlaw and Wilfrido Buelvas of Colombia ended in an anti-climactic no contest in the first round. Referee Michelle Myers stopped the fight at 2:28 when medical officials in both corners declared the fighters could not continue after Buelvas accidentally head-butted Outlaw, opening a gash above his right eye that began bleeding profusely.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” Peterson (39-1-1, 25 knockouts) said of highlighting a local production. “It’s something I’ve felt like was past due. While I was waiting for those big fights, I feel like these were the times that I missed. We could have been putting on these smaller shows and building our fan base stronger — and not only are you building a fan base but you’re knocking off rust.”

Peterson’s trainer is his older brother Lamont, 38, a retired two-division champion whose victory over Amir Khan via split decision in December 2011 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center produced one of the most memorable moments in the storied history of boxing in D.C.

That triumph brought major title belts back to the District, which was the birthplace and/or home base of world champions during the 1990s such as flyweight Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, super lightweight Sharmba Mitchell, super welterweight Ronald “Winky” Wright and middleweights Keith Holmes and William Joppy. The nearby suburbs can claim Sugar Ray Leonard, a native of Palmer Park and one of the most accomplished and celebrated champions in boxing history, as well as former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe of Fort Washington.

Underscoring the area representation Saturday night was a 10-bell salute honoring late trainer Gary Russell Sr., who died recently. Russell was the patriarch in a family of fighters and most notably trained Gary Russell Jr., who held the WBC featherweight title from 2015 until losing it in January.

“Our goal is to get D.C. back to when we had five, six champions,” said Hernandez-Harrison, whose housemate Donnell Poe was on the undercard and won his four-round bout, the second of his career. “A lot of them are here tonight. I think it’s good to connect the new and the old. That’s pretty much my job now — mentoring young fighters. I tell them the mistakes I made, things I did wrong.”

Securing Entertainment and Sports Arena, the home court of the Washington Mystics and the Capital City Go-Go and the practice facility of the Washington Wizards, was at the top of his list of priorities. With one more show scheduled for August, the four-year-old facility in Congress Heights provides a seating capacity (4,200) suited to showcasing contenders bidding for title fights in addition to unproven locals seeking to gain experience in a setting accessible to family and friends.

The amenities also are far more fan-friendly than some dated venues in the area that have hosted boxing cards in recent years.

“That’s what D.C. needs. D.C. needs to be active in this sport,” said Holmes, pointing to his 16 bouts over two years that prepared him to become a champion. “These fighters need to fight. They need to stay busy. ... I’m thankful I went through what I went through. I just hope everyone keeps this thing going.”