Darryll Tyson greeted Marvelous Marvin Hagler with a firm boxer's handshake, then stared him in the eye.
"I really wanted to meet you because I respect you -- not just as a fighter but as a man," said Tyson.
The 31-year-old world middleweight boxing champ smiled and leaned on Tyson, who is not only the best lightweight boxer in Washington, but also is the World Boxing Council's Continental Americas lightweight champion.
"I hear you have a championship bout coming up with Jimmy Paul," Hagler whispered, referring to a May or June fight for the International Boxing Federation title. "Smother his right hand. Take it away from him. He's got no left."
Hagler's presence in Washington this past week, including his visit to the White House and Capitol Hill, has been an inspiration to many people -- especially the D.C. Boxing Commission, which has been in need of a boost ever since the ill-fated match between Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Michael Spinks that was called off at the last minute in July 1983.
But few have enjoyed seeing the multimillionaire with the devastating 62-2-2 boxing record as much as those who aspire to follow in his footsteps. Of all the boxers in the Washington area fighting today, Tyson seems to have the best shot. After only four years as a professional, the 25-year-old Dunbar High School graduate has racked up a 24-1 boxing record and has "jumped the moon," as they say in the sport, by winning both a championship fight and a number one ranking.
Yet, imitating Hagler is about more than having a hammer of a fist. It's about being a sportsman -- with emphasis on being a man.
Tyson says he learned this the hard way: Most of his life had been spent trying to prove his manhood by bloodying noses and blackening eyes in street fights, and he was routinely suspended from school.
Friends told him he should do more with his extraordinarily quick hands than mess them up, as well as people's faces, for nothing. Changing bad habits required something that Tyson had not heard much about. It was called discipline.
But once he became involved in an organized boxing club he learned about that -- and more.
"Being a man is not about proving things to others but proving something to yourself," said Tyson, who fights at 135 pounds. "To take a good punch, to suck it up and keep on pushing, and to avoid taking a punch at all makes me feel good about me."
Tyson's coach, Pappy Gault of the House of Champions in Northwest Washington, says the young fighter is among the best he has worked with in more than 40 years of coaching.
"As a fighter, there is no question about him," says Gault, 63. "He's got his head screwed on right, he's not a bragger and he's got powerful punches. On the other hand, he'll take his paycheck and try to pay for everything for everybody. I'm trying to teach him to take care of Darryll, because I don't want to see him broke on his heels when he retires."
Tyson smiles proudly, but hastens to add, "My goal is not to be just a fighter, but a person who gets respect."
To that end, Tyson works as hard on his vocabulary as he does on his right hook and stays away from drugs and alcohol. "Be true to your body and it'll be true to you," he advises, trying to mellow his hardened boxer's stare with an occasional smile.
And there is much for him to smile about.
After meeting with Hagler at a reception inside the National Press Club Building recently, Tyson seemed almost to float away. The internationally acclaimed Marvelous Marvin had come to Washington and given him advice. There was no stopping Tyson now.
In a city where few people have ever heard of their local champ, recognition from Hagler was more than enough compensation. And Tyson headed back to the House of Champions with more than a picture of what his idol looked like. He had a better idea of the kind of man he wanted to be.