The career of an amateur boxer is usually a series of ups and downs -- one day a champion basks in glory, tomorrow a loser wonders what went wrong.
Kenneth Baysmore knows the peaks and valleys as well as the next amateur boxer, but he has spent much more time basking in glory than wondering what went wrong.
Baysmore is generally considered the top amateur boxer in the Washington area. He has been ranked as high as second nationally in his 119-pound weight category.
In just four years of boxing, Baysmore has compiled a 56-6 record. He won the National Golden Gloves title for 119-pounders in 1979, and the regional Golden Gloves title in that weight category three years in a row. He has fought in the AAU and represented the U.S. in international competition.
Baysmore first pulled on his gloves as a 14-year-old, 95-pounder.
"A neighborhood buddy of mine got me involved in boxing," recalls the 18-year-old. "At first, I just tried it out as something different to do. It turned out so well that it seemed natural for me. I have loved it ever since."
But in boxing, even a combination of natural talent and a burning desire to win are not always enough. There has to be someone else to nurture and utilize those assets properly.
Baysmore was fortunate to have two of the best in Pappy Gault and John Sneed.
Gault has 35 years under his belt as a trainer-coach with the Amateur Athletic Union. He was the first black boxing coach for the Olympics in the late '60s, training George Foreman for the 1968 Mexico City games.
He is no longer Baysmore's trainer, but the boxer feels the association was vital to his success. "It's amazing how much Pappy knows about boxing," he says. "When he talks you listen because you know he knows what he is talking about. He surely helped me a lot."
Sneed is not as well known as Gault, but is nonetheless highly respected by his peers. He trains Baysmore, 112-pound Louis Curtis and 125-pound William (Flip) Johnson -- three of the top amateur fighters in the area.
Baysmore has benefited from Sneed's discipline and philosophy of hard work. He credits both men with making a crucial difference in his career.
"I knew from the start that it was a big advantage for me to be associated with them," he says.
The boxer works out and trains at Southeast's No. 11 Police Boys and Girls Club.
Each afternoon he goes to train directly from his job as a clerk at the NFL Players Association. He spends two to three intense hours every evening at No. 11 -- shadow boxing, sparring, skipping rope, exercising and doing work on the speed and heavy bag.He fully understands the importance of serious training.
"Training has never been a problem with me," he says. "I love it because I know it is going to pay off in the long run."
Baysmore spends his weekends traveling to various boxing tournaments in Indiana, New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana, which leaves him with little time for social life, but he says there is a positive side. "If it hadn't been for boxing, I probably wouldn't have been able to travel as much as I have."
His travels once took him to South Africa, an experience he especially treasures. "I was only 16 when I went to South Africa to fight in international competition. I was exposed to things I had never imagined. It was a great experience for me."
So much for the ups. There have also been a few downs in Baysmore's career. He recently suffered a disappointing setback at the National Golden Gloves tournament: After having won the title in 1979, he was stopped in the semifinals this year.
Ever the optimist, Baysmore said the experience served a purpose. "I was careless," he said. "But it might be a good thing that I lost because now I know that you can't take anything for granted. I'm going to have to concentrate more and work harder."
Baysmore is "today's" boxer -- intelligent, talented and confident. Dave Jacobs, trainer for Sugar Ray Leonard and several other top young boxers, said these factors add up to a bright future for Baysmore.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Kenneth Baysmore is one of the finest amateur boxers in the country," assesses Jacobs, who has carefully watched Baysmore's progress. "He has all the equipment. He can punch, he can move and he's smart.
"If he continues at the rate he's going, he is going to be a great, great pro."
He should know. Just ask Sugar Ray.