Bandele Hinton, 16, wants to win a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics. He began fighting for it Sunday at the Amateur Boxing Federation National Championships in Indianapolis.
The 5-foot-7, 132-pounder who lives in New Carrollton is an 11th grader at Eleanor Roosevelt High. He fights for the Sugar Ray Leonard Gym and trains at the Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing Center in Palmer Park. His record the last five years is 85-7.
Earlier this year, he won a three-round, local ABF tournament decision over Greg Smith of Landover to qualify for the ABF Regionals in York, Pa. He beat a Baltimore fighter there Oct. 12 to qualify for Indianapolis.
Although Hinton has had 92 fights, he has competed in the open division of his weight class for only a month now but has won five times. In Indianapolis, he probably will box older and more experienced opponents.
"He could meet up with a kid much stronger, and with many more fights," admitted his trainer-father Junious Hinton. "I don't know who he will be fighting; the names from the various regions in the country will be drawn from a hat, but Bandele will have to box, not punch, to be successful."
Bandele was born in New York but his family soon moved to New Jersey. There, at the age of 7, he began jogging and training with his father, a middleweight.
"He used to take me down to the gym and let me punch the bag," Bandele said.
The elder Hinton, now 42, fought professionally in 1962-73 and was Emile Griffith's "main sparring partner" from '64 into '67. He finished his career with an 18-13 record.
"I didn't receive a lot of money," said the 5-foot-6 Junious. "At that time the sport was not paying a lot of money, like it is now. I just tried to fight, party and have fun."
After the family moved to this area, Bandele, then 11, fought his first bout. It was an inauspicious debut; he lost to Delfis Worthy at the Oakrest Gym.
"I was going to quit then," he said. "I felt I won, but the guy they said beat me had just won the national (80-pound) championship. I won, but they just stuck me."
After that, he was introduced to Leonard, who presented him a trophy. Then Leonard stopped by the gym to give him boxing tips.
Last year Bandele won the junior 14-15-year-old championship in St. Paul. But last June, two months before his 16th birthday, he slipped to third in the rankings after losing in Saginaw Valley, Mich.
Now after winning in the regionals, he is ready to take on all comers, his father believes. "Novice (fighting) was for gaining experience," Junious said. "In novice fights you usually only fight locally for experience; in junior competition you fight against fighters equal in age. And now in 'open' fighting, you fight all ages and experience, and you travel to fight."
Bandele respects his father's judgment. "Other people give me pointers," he said, "but my father is my trainer."
Bandele has averaged nearly 20 fights per year while going to school. On school days, he arises at six o'clock and runs four miles. After school, he goes to the gym and trains 4:30-7. Then he goes home to do homework and "tries to go to bed by 10 o'clock.
"I might take a week off, once or twice a year," he said.
Added confidence now allows him to take an occasional break from training. "I can box and punch, with the same ability, and I feel I have no weak points."
And although Wilfred Benitez is one of his favorite fighters, "Everybody says I box like Ray (Leonard)."
The ABF provided his room, board and travel expenses to Indianapolis, but his father paid his own way.
Junious has also bought his son's equipment: head gear ($40), gloves ($45), cup ($37), bag gloves ($40) and shoes ($35).
Bandele knows what will be at stake. "I don't know if I will want to turn pro or not," he said. "I think I want to win the ('88) Olympics. I think I'll be about 139 or 147 (pounds) by Olympic time."