Four Washington amateur boxers are going south. They're hoping it's the first stop on a trip to Seoul in 1988.
The National Sports Festival will open Wednesday in Baton Rouge, La., and, in the past, the festival has been a spawning ground for Olympic boxers. Last summer in Los Angeles, U.S. Olympians won a record 11 medals, and 10 of those boxers had competed in sports festivals. Eight of those 10 won gold medals.
James Harris, Lyndon Walker, Darryl Lattimore and Alton Rice will be representing the District of Columbia. Another D.C. boxer, Eugene Speed, was scheduled to compete, but decided to turn professional.
Harris, Walker and Lattimore are all U.S. Boxing Federation national champions. Rice, who is in the 147-pound class, as is Lattimore, has a 2-1 record against Lattimore.
Harris, an 18-year-old in the 106-pound class, attended Spingarn High School. He trains with his father, Ham Johnson, at the Elliott Recreation Center in Northeast Washington.
Harris has fought twice this year against international opponents, winning each time. On Jan 27 in Reno, he defeated Karmizhan Abdrakhmanov of the Soviet Union and, on June 7, in Orlando, Fla., he beat David Griman of Venezuela.
"My goal is to win a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics," Harris said, adding that he doesn't plan on turning pro until after the Seoul Games. "I'm still young and not pressed for money. I don't need to go pro, and I'd like to get more international experience before turning pro."
Rice, 19, was second in the USBF championships as Lattimore won the title. Rice has fought twice against international opponents in 1985, but was unsuccessful each time. On Jan. 12, in Longview, Tex., he lost to Pedro Franco of Argentina. On June 21, he lost a decision to Tibor Magyar of Hungary in Lake Tahoe, Nev.
Rice defeated Lattimore in the Golden Gloves earlier this year, and said the key to beating him is stamina.
"He comes to you," Rice said of Lattimore. "He's right in front of you, so if you throw a lot of punches, you'll hit him with a few. If you're tired, that's when he'll do his work."
Rice said his immediate goal is to win the sports festival championship, and he doesn't know if he'll still be an amateur in 1988.
"I'm undecided right now, and that's a long time from now," Rice said.
Walker, 20, is also a current USBF national champion who attended Spingarn. Walker, who will fight in the 125-pound class, has a 2-2 record this year in international competition. In the USA-USSR meet in January, Walker lost a decision to Serik Nurkazov. His other loss was in the USA-Venezuela matchup, dropping a decision to Omar Catari. In between, Walker beat Korean Park Hyung-Ok, Feb. 8, in Las Vegas, and Yugoslav Dragan Konovalov, April 11 in Sarajevo.
Lattimore, 22, works out at the House of Champions on Georgia Avenue with former U.S. Olympic boxing coach Pappy Gault. Lattimore, who went to H.D. Woodson High School, is also 2-2 against international competition this year. He won a decision over Israel Akopkokyan of the Soviet Union, but then lost on decision to Korean Kim Dong-Gil and to Yugoslav Jovan Ornokrak. In June, he defeated Venezulean Argnis Lara when the referee stopped the fight.
Most NSF participants are selected by region: North, South, East or West. Boxing is different in that the "North" team is made up of current USBF champions, regardless of where they are from, and the "South" team composed of USBF runners-up. The East and West teams are filled by boxers who make it through regional qualifying tournaments. Both tournaments were held June 10-15, with the East qualifier in Lake Placid, N.Y., and the West qualifier in El Paso, Tex.
The NSF winners will represent the United States in the North American championships, Aug. 14-17, in Beaumont, Tex. The winners of that tournament will represent the continent in the World Cup, Nov. 1-7 in Seoul.