If all it took to be a boxing champion was a stare, Gerry Payne would be king.
The dark, penetrating eyes are a tipoff that this 17-year-old from Dunbar High School thinks he can someday win an Olympic gold medal and/or a world title. But it does take more than a glare to get gold. Tonight, in the U.S. Olympic Festival's 139-pound gold medal bout, he lost a 4-1 decision to Nick Kakouris of St. Louis, the 1986 U.S. national champion.
Payne (who pronounces his first name "Gary") and many of the 8,200 in the Astroarena thought Payne had won.
"I thought I won," said Payne. "But every decision isn't going to go your way. You've got to expect that out of life. But I thought I beat him enough to get the decision."
Most of the judges and Kakouris thought otherwise.
"He was tough," Kakouris said. "He's a good fighter and real strong, but I knew I had it. I laid inside a little too much. It really wasn't that close."
Kakouris, 21, was right about staying inside too much. He is three inches taller than Payne (5 feet 8) and has a longer reach. Both used their left jabs effectively, but Payne seemed to have the better of things when they stood there and duked it out.
"When we stood toe to toe," Payne said, "I thought I outpointed him every time."
Were they to fight again, he said, he would do what he did tonight, though with a bit more zip.
"I've got to be really aggressive and go get him," he said. "This is just a downer for me. But I'll be back and I'll be stronger next time."
Payne, who was wearing the East team colors, had advanced by decisioning Curlie Sanders of Rochester, N.Y., and Kakouris, fighting for the North, stopped Robert Montoya, of West Jordan, Utah, at 1:28 of the third round.
Two other Washington area boxers won bronze medals. Anthony Wilson of Lanham, Md., left with a bronze in the 112-pound division, competing for the East team. Jemal Hinton of New Carrollton, Md., won a bronze in the 119-pound class while fighting for the South.
Payne has been competing in the open division for only three months, and tonight was his first loss in 12 fights.
"This is the biggest tournament I've been in," he had said Monday afternoon. "My thinking was that I'd come in and win the tournament. I'm always thinking positive. Never negative. I always think I'm going to win because winning means a great deal to me.
"Previous to this, I wanted to -- and I will -- be No. 1, and will be No. 1 right through the 1988 Olympics. I want to make the '88 Olympics."
Asked why winning is so important to him, he paused, then said: "Who likes to lose? And I think I'm a born winner.
"I don't think it will be a real hard fight," he said before the fight. "But I have to take it one step at a time. I will have to use the jab a great deal and throw combinations at him to keep him off balance. I really expect to beat him. I have to be convinced that I can, because he is ranked No. 1 in the U.S., and come Tuesday night I wish to be ranked No. 1 in the U.S."
Payne, who will be a junior at Dunbar, lives in Northwest with his father, grandmother and brother. His father Frank helps Cleveland Burgess in his son's training.
"I got started because my father was a boxer at one time and he really like it," young Payne said of his start at age 12. "Then he asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said yes."
Sugar Ray Leonard has come to be an idol for many Washington area boxers. But not Payne.
"I really respect Marvin Hagler," he said, "because he has proven to me and proven to the world that he really is a great champion. I like his style and the way he carries himself. He carries himself like a true champion."
But the scenario he would like to see himself in, more closely resembles Leonard's career.
"I'm going to go along the same route Ray Leonard went," he said. "And looking to be successful like him."
To that end, boxing is at the top of his list and takes most of his time.
"I want to be a boxer," he said. "I want to make it and be a professional. I want to make it a job. Boxing really is a business with me. No play. All business."
Jim Liddy, son of Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy, finished fifth in his phase of the modern pentathlon. There were two divisions of competition. One was for senior men, the other was for junior men, women and men just starting to compete in the sport, as is Liddy. He was part of the South team that won the team gold medal. Individually, he rose from 13th place after the first event to 10th after riding and fencing. Swimming, his strongest event, pushed him up to fifth.
Renaldo Nehemiah won't participate here, although the U.S. Olympic Committee invited him today.
He hasn't run track in five years. He had asked for an invitation but the 110-meter hurdles, his favorite event, already had been filled. He could have run in the 400-meter relay but chose not to.
Nehemiah, who starred in the sport at the University of Maryland, still holds the world record in the 110-meter hurdles of 12.93.
In tennis, John Albert Faldo of Charleston, W.Va., and Noelle Porter of San Clemente, Calif., the second seeds, won the mixed doubles by beating the No. 1 seeds, John Boytim of Spring, Tex., and Trisha Laux of Roswell, Ga., 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Nolan Smith of San Antonio broke two ribs, his right wrist and a toe when he fell during the equestrian jumping phase of the pentathlon. But he wouldn't quit and continued in the swimming, running and fencing. He finished last overall.
Julie Kole, 13, of Forest Hill, Md., became the youngest double gold medal winner by taking the 800-meter freestyle to add to her gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle on Sunday.