The third Mayor Marion Barry Invitational Boxing Tournament, which was begun two years as a showcase for the Washington area's considerable amateur boxing talent, got off to a less-than-auspicious start last night at Howard University's Burr Gymansium, drawing most of its attention from the talent that will not compete.

First, the Kronk Gym team, whose fighters were scheduled to represent Detroit, dropped out late Monday night.

Then, Leroy Simms, Frank Payne and Gary Payne, three fighters important to Washington's chances of winning a third consecutive team title, came into yesterday morning's weigh-in overweight.

Now, none of this lessened the spirit of last night's opening ceremony or the intensity of the 14-bout card. However, tournament director Rick Bowlding was clearly downcast over the events of the previous 24 hours. Of a scheduled field of about 150 boxers, only 90 had appeared.

"We expected each of the {12} teams to show up with at least 10 boxers," Bowlding said. "Some of the teams only brought a few boxers. Then last night, the Kronks hadn't arrived at the hotel when we were getting ready to make the draw. I thought something had gone wrong with their transportation, so I called Alex Scherer {the Kronk team's amateur coach}."

"He {Scherer} told me that he had gotten a call from Emmanuel Steward {one of Kronk's organizers} and Steward had told that him that he was not to leave Detroit because Steward had a problem with Mike Trainer {Sugar Ray Leonard's attorney}," Bowlding said. "We don't have anything to do with Mike Trainer. So there's no justification for their action based on that."

Neither Scherer nor Steward was available for comment last night.

"Sure, it's disappointing," Bowlding said. "We started mailing letters to these coaches back in January. Now, I can understand a few kids not being able to make it at the last minute and things like that, but this is a totally different thing.

"I'll tell you, some of these teams won't be getting letters next year. We're happy to have them show up, but we want them to come here with the idea of competing and trying to win."

Larry Williams, one of the Washington team's coaches, will have to learn to live without Simms and the Payne brothers -- which should be easy compared to learning to live without sleep.

"Last night at about 11 o'clock, Leroy {normally a 119-pounder} weighed 126, Gary {normally a 147-pounder} was at 154 and Frank {normally a 132-pounder} was at 138," Williams said. "So we went out and ran and exercised in the steam room until about 3 or 3:30 {yesterday morning}. I'm dead on my feet right now."

It almost ended up being worth the yawns -- but not quite. At yesterday's 7 a.m. weigh-in, Simms weighed 121, Gary Payne 147 1/2 and Frank Payne 134. Thus, Washington started the tournament with no chance of winning three of the seven lowest weight classes, which Washington dominated each of the past two years.

Still, Williams had far from given up hope, especially after watching 139-pound Anthony Ross stop Craig Lee of Jersey City, N.J., at 2:14 of the second round of their first-round bout last night.

"Not having Simms and the Paynes will hurt us," Williams said. "But we've still got nine fighters in this tournament. We're still alive."