While the attention of boxing fans has been focused on Sugar Ray Leonard, a new crop of young fighters--amateurs and professionals--has
been developing in the Washington area.
Three local fighters recently battled their way into the finals of the United States Amateur Federation of Boxing (USAFB) tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
* Floyd Favors. A senior at Suitland High School, Favors won the USAFB's 119-pound title. The 18-year-old boxer lives in Capitol Heights, Md., and fights out of the Eastern Branch Boys Club in Northeast Washington.
* Joe King. Fighting at 106 pounds, King made it to the championship match where he lost on a decision. King, 17, is a junior at Archbishop John Carroll High School and a resident of Northeast Washington. He is ranked fifth in the United States in the 106-pound class by Ring magazine.
* James Johnson. Boxing in the 125-pound class, Johnson was knocked out in the semifinals by the eventual champion, Orlando Johnson of Chicago. James Johnson, a 17-year-old junior at Cardozo High, is ranked fourth in his class in the United States by Ring magazine.
Other Washington fighters who competed at Charlotte were:
* Roy Sapp, 21, of Hillcrest Heights, a construction worker who fights at 156 pounds. He advanced to the quarterfinals.
* Ozzie Silas, 22, of Hillcrest Heights, is a Metro mechanic who lost in the preliminaries of the 165-pound competition.
* Elwood Woodland, 22, a graduate of Anacostia and former student at the University of the District of Columbia, fights at 139 pounds. He lost in the preliminaries.
For their impressive display of boxing, Washington's fighters were awarded the team trophy.
Currently, the D.C.-Maryland area has about 300 amateur fighters from 7 to 35 years of age who work out in 12 boxing clubs.
Favors' title victory came as no surprise to those who have watched his career. During his seven years of amateur competition, the youthful boxer has compiled a 108-13 won-lost record. Gaining valuable experience with each match, Favors has won several regional Golden Gloves and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles. In national Golden Gloves competition, he advanced once to the quarterfinals and twice to the semifinals.
Favors says that his victory in the USAFB's 119-pound championship match is particularly sweet.
"Each time, I seemed to get a little closer to the title," Favors said. "I learned to benefit from my mistakes of years past. I think the basic difference was that I trained much harder and didn't take my experience for granted."
Favors left last week for Colorado Springs, Col., to participate in a USAFB tournament that will select a team to represent the United States in Munich, West Germany, in May. Favors needs one victory to become a full team member. Otherwise he will go as an alternate.
In his championship bout, which was nationally televised, Favors displayed his all-around boxing skills and superb defense, dominating his opponent during all three rounds. Favors pursued his foe relentlessly, continually pounding his body.
In amateur boxing, all that the winners take home are bruises, trophies and the thrill of victory. The sport gives them an opportunity to travel, but no monetary reward. So what is the motivation for a boxer like Favors?
"The motivation is the work you put in and then seeing the product in the form of winning," Favors replied. "It also inspires me when I see past amateurs like Wilfredo Gomez and Salvador Sanchez go on to do well in the professional ranks."
Favors says he does plan to turn professional. "When I graduate from high school this year, I plan to prepare myself for life in something else other than boxing."
King, meanwhile, has come on faster than expected by his coach and others. The 106-pounder has a 98-7 record and was impressive in the recent USAFB championships, bowing in the championship match on a 5-2 decision.
In the ring, King is a street-style scrapper and hustler who relies on punching power rather than boxing skills. King's coach for the past eight years, Cleveland Burgess, said he feels that King has a good chance of making the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. King, too, went to Colorado Springs, to take part in the team selection for the German bouts. He was guaranteed a place on the team as alternate because of his showing in Charlotte but needs two wins in Colorado Springs to become a full team member.
Johnson is another comer. In eight years, he has put together a 92-11 record and is known for a devastating left hook. Johnson, who has fought in both Dublin, Ireland, and in England, was knocked out in the semifinals of the USAFB tournament. Burgess, who also trains Johnson, said it was a painful but valuable lesson.
"He was very disappointed," Burgess said. "I had been telling him to keep his left up, but he dropped it and he paid the price. He's a hard worker and he has talent. He'll gain from his mistake. He's going to be a good one."
The USAFB, organized last year, is now the body that sanctions amateur bouts in the United States, replacing the AAU, which did so for many years. Area coaches agreed that they were pleased with the change.
"The big advantage now under the American Federation of Boxing," said Burgess, "is the increase in the number of bouts the fighters can fight and more emphasis on international bouts. It gives the amateurs more exposure and it helps them develop better against world competition."
Meanwhile, more and more young Washington area-boxers are turning pro. They include:
Kenneth Baysmore, 20, of Northwest, a graduate of Cardozo High School.
Lloyd (Honeyboy) Taylor, 20, of Anacostia, a graduate of Suitland High School. Fighting in the welterweight class, Taylor has a powerful right hand, is unbeaten in his nine bouts and scored knockouts over eight of his opponents. He has sparred with former welterweight champ Tommy Hearns.
Welterweight Maurice Blocker, 17, of Northwest, a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School, has a 4-0 record, having knocked out all four opponents. Blocker is a boxer-puncher who uses his 6-1 height to his advantage.
Simon Brown, 18, of Northwest, a graduate of the D.C. Street Academy, is 4-0 since he turned pro. Boxing in the junior welterweight division, he is a workmanlike fighter who continually presses his opponents.
Baysmore's 60-5 record is legendary in Washington's amateur boxing circles. His record includes a national 119-pound Golden Gloves title in 1979, the first won by a Washington fighter since Sugar Ray Leonard in 1974. Baysmore, who turned pro last year, is fighting in the junior lightweight class and won his first two pro bouts by knockouts.
Baysmore and Taylor will be fighting at the D.C. Armory-Starplex April 30 as part of a series of 11 live matches featuring an exhibition by the World Boxing Council Light Heavyweight Champion Dwight Braxton.
Dave Jacobs, former trainer for Sugar Ray Leonard, has watched Baysmore develop.
"There is no question in my mind that Kenny Baysmore is going to be a champion," said Jacobs. "I've watched him all through his amateur career and he continues to impress me. He can punch, he can move well, and he is very intelligent in the ring. Right now, he can beat some of the contenders in the top 10. If he continues to develop, I predict he will be ready for a title in about two years."