A Mixed Boxing Bag: Devil Or Angel?

Harold BellContributor IIIApril 13, 2010

I was recently an eyewitness to two young people who were once associated with Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports that were profiled back to back on Fox News TV 5 in Washington, DC.  The show aired stories of professional boxer Dirrik Holmes and teen phenom vocalist Stacey Lattisaw. 


Back in the day (any time before the 90s) a do-wop vocalist group released a classic titled “Devil or Angel.” The interviews on television with Dirrik and Stacy brought a smile to my face and memories of days gone by. In the 70s and 80s Dirrik and Stacy were at the top of their game and professions. 


Inside Sports was the No. 1 sports talk show in DC and Kids In Trouble, Inc was the No. 1 community based youth advocate group during their reign. The two programs encouraged pro athletes, entertainers and radio and television personalities to get involved to help improve the plight of inner-city children.


Celebrity tennis and golf tournaments and fashion shows sponsored by Kids In Trouble, Inc and Inside Sports evolved from the two programs. Dirrik and Stacey were two of the program’s fashion show models.


Personalities and participants included Earl “The Pearl” Monroe (NBA), Sonny Hill (NBA), Adrian Dantley (NBA), Austin Carr (NBA), Adrian Branch (NBA), Len Bias (NBA), Roy Jefferson, Freddy Scott, Doug Williams, Tim Baylor (NFL), Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Johnny Gant (Boxing), Robert Hooks (Actor), Martin Wyatt, Fred Thomas, Paul Berry, Maureen Bunyan, Jim Vance (TV Media), Donnie Simpson (Radio), John Thompson (Georgetown Uni) and the list goes on and on.


Dirrik was a champion right out of the box. He won the junior division of the Golden Gloves in 1969 his first year on the boxing scene for Kentland boxing program.  He then moved from Kentland to the Palmer Park, Maryland boxing program.  His success led his friend and now boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard to join him on the team. Ray’s brother Roger Leonard was also a member of a program that was considered one of the best in the country. Dirrick and Roger were considered the team’s best during that era, but Ray was coming on fast.


According to boyhood friend Irvin Millard the workouts between Sugar Ray Leonard and Dirrik Holmes were toe-to-toe knock down and drag out classics. There were many times Dirrik gave better than he received. There was little or no animosity or jealousy among the fighters during this era. They were just two great competitors who were close friends in and out of the ring.


Dirrik was riding high after winning a Gold Medal at a pre-Olympic tournament in Montreal in 1975, but his life would never be the same after the 1976 Olympic trials.  He would encounter a bad decision that would turn his world upside down. 


The name Charles Mooney an Olympic hopeful will forever be etched in the mind of Dirrik Holmes. He would lose a controversial decision to Mooney leading up to the U.S. Olympic trials in 1976. 


The devastating lost to Mooney still haunts Dirrik 34 years later. He keeps the photo that shows Mooney looking like the loser that he was but misguided officials gave him the decision anyway.


One bad decision would lead to another. The next bad decision by Dirrik was of his own doing and would cost him 23 years of his life in jail. He turned to drugs after losing to Mooney and the drugs would become his sparring partner, trainer, friend and his biggest opponent.


Dirrick turned pro and became close friends with Boxing promoter and businessman Nat Williams. In the meantime Dirrik along with Ray got involved with Kids In Trouble and Inside Sports via radio and celebrity fashion shows.


The lost to Mooney was nothing compared to watching his close friend and sparring partner Sugar Ray Leonard go on to win a Gold Medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Sugar Ray Leonard’s boxing success would lead him into the boxing Hall of Fame and Derrick’s boxing failure would lead him into jail.


Sugar Ray Leonard had his own problems after his fairy tale win in Montreal. On his return to his home in Palmer Park newspaper headlines screamed and read “Sugar Ray Leonard has baby out of wedlock with high school sweetheart.” Ray hid in his home for weeks and refused to come out until I went over and coaxed him out.


Dirrik was having his own problems with drugs and he was definitely a kid in trouble. All I ever saw was his outgoing personality and the confidence of a young man climbing up the ladder of success using boxing as a vehicle. He had become a regular participant in my Kids In Trouble Celebrity Fashion Shows. He was a frequent guest on my sports talk show with Sugar Ray as a co-host.


Dirrik had a flair and confident air about him and he took pride in being one of the fashion show’s top dressers. In 1983 all hell broke loose when I heard he had been arrested and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery in Clinton, Maryland. I called his friend and promoter Nat Williams and he confirmed the story. I felt responsible because I never saw it coming.


Dirrik was found guilty in 1984 and he would spend the next 23 years in jail, five of those years would be served in the Mary Penitentiary in Baltimore and 18 years in the Maryland Correctional Center in Hagerstown. He has been to hell and back.


The Maryland Penitentiary and Hagerstown are two of the worst jail systems in the country running close behind the Atlanta Penitentiary in Georgia. 

The sentence never made sense to me. I have seen some first degree murder convictions and the accused were never given half the sentence Dirrick was given for attempted murder. This is known as Just-Us and Justice in America’s judicial system. We make up over half of the inmate population in America’s jails and we are only 13 percent of the entire population! America has the highest prison population in the world.

Dirrick’s has been home for two years trying to jump start his life. The 23 years that he spent in jail he can never get back. Those years lost would be like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the container, but he still sees light at the end of the tunnel.


He wants to try to save kids in trouble by dispersing advice and teaching lessons in the Game Called Life using boxing as a vehicle. Dirrik does not want children to experience the hard knocks that await them in the criminal justice system. He has already been there and done that.


He believes by going up stream to fish the children out he will save and catch more children than having to wait to fish them out at the river’s end. He says “We must be more about prevention instead waiting around and re-acting after the fact.”


Dirrick is in recovery and working out of a warehouse in District Heights, Maryland. The space is provided by the New Revival Center of Renewal and houses a Boxing and Fitness Gym, headed by pastor Paul A. Wells. The program deals with the mental and physical aspects of life.


For Dirrick Holmes it is an uphill battle but don’t count him out, he still has a champion’s heart and some fight and quality rounds left in him. Dirrick was once a kid in trouble and Stacy had the voice of an Angel and parents who had her back. Today they are both role models in the Game Called Life.