Unlike most other professional sports, boxing typically doesn’t feature events at home or on the road. Advantages, both tactical and emotional, tend to start and stop in the middle of the ring.
But for Great Falls native Jimmy Lange, last Saturday night’s return bout at George Mason’s Patriot Center represented more of an
exception than the rule.
In front of a partisan crowd of 5,817, Lange
showed no ill effects from the rotator cuff injury that forced him away from the ring for the past 18 months, jabbing his way to a 10-round win over Grover Wiley.
Lange didn’t score the knockout he did in his last bout on May 12, 2007, when he finished off Fontaine Cabell in the eighth round. Still, he gave an excited crowd quite a few things to cheer about.
It also prompted Lange to reference a sport that has little in common with his own.
“It wasn’t perfect because I would’ve liked to have come in and have had a little bit more of a spectacular showing. The crowd wants knockouts, there’s no question about that,” said Lange, 27, a 152-pound junior middleweight who graduated from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington.
“At the same time, the crowd got a very good boxing lesson. They don’t come to see the pitchers … they come to see the hitters. I would have liked to have had a knockout and given them a knockout but boxing is boxing.”
<b>GEORGE MASON</b> has now hosted six professional boxing events at the Patriot Center and every one of them has been headlined by Lange (29-3-2, 20 KO’s). In the first-ever Patriot Center event, on Sept. 17, 2005, Lange scored a four-round knockout of Perry Ballard.
When Patriot Center general manager Barry Geisler was approached by Johnny Lange, Jimmy Lange’s father, about the possibility of a return bout at the Fairfax campus, it was as close to a clear-cut answer as the ringside judges had after Lange’s unanimous decision.
“We’ve had several Jimmy Lange-headlined boxing cards here and it’s been very successful,” Geisler said. “It’s a great opportunity for boxing fans in Northern Virginia to see top quality boxing in a great venue that’s a comfortable place to enjoy themselves.”
In addition to Lange, Saturday night’s lineup featured another slice of local flavor. With a daughter battling Stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, “Tattoo” Tom Mitchell, 41, resuscitated a boxing career that was halted after a win at age 11.
When his daughter was diagnosed with cancer last summer, Mitchell began fighting again as a way to at least mentally combat the disease and eventually enlisted the help of a longtime friend in Lange.
Mitchell originally called Lange with the idea of pairing some charity work with the return bout but Lange had a different idea. He wanted Mitchell to fight.
<b>WITH LANGE’S</b> guidance, Mitchell made his professional debut against Woodbridge native Yieta Johnson. Though he suffered a second-round defeat, Mitchell raised over $6,000 for Growing Hope, a Fairfax Station-based nonprofit organization that provides outreach and family support programs for children battling cancer.
“Jimmy Lange is a man among men,” Mitchell said. “Jimmy Lange has been to the hospital to visit my daughter. Jimmy Lange has called me throughout my training. Everybody in the whole organization has treated me with nothing but the utmost respect.”
Before the evening’s main showcase fight, Mitchell and his daughter Shayla joined promoter Jackie Kellen in the ring to present the $6,000 check. But after the ceremony, the lights went out and Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” blasted throughout the Patriot Center, giving Lange a noticeable home-ring advantage.
After 18 months, Jimmy Lange finally came around.
“For being off 18 months, I was pretty damn sharp,” said Lange, who’s tentatively scheduled to re-appear at the same venue in February. “The power was there, it just wanted enough. It wasn’t in volume. The shots … there wasn’t as many. But my speed, I haven’t lost anything. It takes you 10, 20, 30, 40 rounds to find that out and I’m perfectly content with what happened tonight.”