Champ Mitchell hopes to ring up Green

April 24, 1999|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Sharmba Mitchell won the war of words in a recent conference call also involving Reggie Green, who will try to take Mitchell's World Boxing Association super lightweight title tonight at Washington, D.C.'s MCI Center.

Referring to Green, Mitchell, a Takoma Park native, said, "I'll knock off my No. 1 contender, then I'll go after the bigger fights." He later added, "People on the street might think it's an even fight, but in the ring, it'll be one-sided."

The MCI Center's initial venture into professional boxing, billed as "Triple Jeopardy" by promoter Don King, will be televised on Showtime starting at 10 p.m.

It will also feature the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight title fight between Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson of Washington and Thailand's Ratanchai Vorapin, and the World Boxing Council middleweight title bout between Hassine Cherifi of France and Keith Holmes of D.C.

With Mitchell being from the D.C. area, and Green, from Clinton, their fight is being likened to a backyard brawl.

"This local-rivalry stuff, I get a kick out of it," said Mitchell, whose resume includes knockouts of at least three local fighters. "I've been through this three or four times. I don't think Reggie knows how fast I am. I look forward to going down in history for winning the first main event at MCI."

Primarily considered a boxer, Mitchell (44-2, 29 knockouts) has used his ring prowess to set up knockouts in 10 of his 13 straight wins since 1994, when he was KO'd in consecutive fights by Levander Johnson (eight rounds) and Stevie Johnson (nine rounds) over a four-month period.

"My two losses, I had a big head and was careless," Mitchell said. "I let myself down. Since then, I've dedicated myself to the sport; buckled down, started treating it as a job.

"As long as I do that, no one can touch me. My speed overwhelms people."

Neither fighter could recall much about a sparring session they had years ago, but Mitchell said: "Reggie's a good fighter with a good style, but he won't be a champ on the 24th."

Mitchell is coming off consecutive 12-round title defenses. He injured his hands in his last fight against Pedro Sainz, but said, "My hands are fine."

"I had two, hard 12-round fights the last two times, so I figure I'll have to make this easier," Mitchell said. "If it goes 12, it'll be an easy 12. After the fight, we can hang out, have dinner."

Green relished his role as the underdog. "I hope everyone thinks I'm going to lose, so I can shock the world," he said.

"People don't think I'm that fast. [But] my strength is my ability to adapt. I'll adapt to Sharmba and come out on top."

Not known for his power, Green (30-2, 14 knockouts) has won 10 straight bouts, including seven by KO, since a second-round knockout loss to Charles Murray.

The streak includes a confidence-boosting, 12-round unanimous decision over Ray Olivera for the NABF super lightweight crown.

"Too Sharp" Johnson (36-1, 26 KOs) is seeking more recognition and a bigger payday.

Though Ranked No. 4 by International Boxing Digest, and No. 10 by Ring Magazine in "best pound for pound" ratings, Johnson's biggest purse, according to his press agent, Andre Johnson, was the $140,000 he earned for sending D.C. native Arthur Johnson to the canvas in one round in February of '98 during one of his seven title defenses.

So Johnson is moving up from flyweight, where he became the first African-American champion in the division with a first-round knockout of Francisco Tejedor in their International Boxing Federation championship bout in 1996.

In No. 2 contender Vorapin (35-3, 25 KOs), Johnson, 27, faces a boxer who has KO'd 12 of his past 13 opponents, including four straight.

A victory over Vorapin would make Johnson the first African-American to win a junior bantamweight championship and would set the stage for taking such bigger names such as Johnny Tapia and Tim Austin.

Holmes (32-2, 21 KOs) has scored a one-round knockout since last May's 12-round loss to Cherifi, who survived a ninth-round knockdown.

In an unprecedented move on Monday, the Washington boxing and wrestling commission unanimously approved open scoring for the event.

Scores will be made public after each round of the Mitchell-Green fight, and after the fourth, eighth and final rounds of the Johnson-Vorapin and Cherifi-Holmes bouts.

Fight facts

What: Three world title bouts, all 12 rounds

Where: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tonight. Doors open at 5: 30; first fight starts at 6: 30.

TV: Title fights on "Showtime," 10 p.m.

Tickets: $25, $75, $100, $150, available at Ticketmaster outlets and MCI box office.

Title fights:

* Reggie Green (30-2, 14 KOs), Clinton vs. Sharmba Mitchell (44-2, 29 KOs), Takoma Park, for Mitchell's WBA super lightweight title

* Keith Holmes (32-2, 21 KOs), Washington, D.C., vs. Hassine Cherifi (26-2, 17 KOs), France, for Cherifi's WBC middleweight title

* Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson (36-1, 26 KOs), Washington, vs. Ratanchai Vorapin (35-3, 25 KOs), Thailand, for vacant IBF junior bantamweight title

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