RALEIGH, N.C., JULY 21 -- Building homes is helping Alexandria's Anthony Suggs build a dream.

The 21-year-old laborer used his greater strength to overcome Patrick Byrd's advantages in height, reach and boxing ability to win the U.S. Olympic Festival gold medal in the lightweight division tonight in front of 4,500 fans at the Raleigh Civic Center.

In winning the gold medal, Suggs moved close to a spot on the United States team for the Pan American Games. The festival gold-medal winners advance to the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation's Box-Off that will be held July 31-Aug. 1 in Colorado Springs.

A six-man panel that decides the competition for the festival winners tonight selected Byrd to be Suggs' opponent in the box-off. If Suggs wins, he will join the Pan American Games team. If Byrd wins, the two will meet one more time for the right to fight for the U.S. team in Indianapolis.

"This is a like a dream come true," Suggs said with a smile.

Byrd, an 18-year-old from Flint, Mich., is two inches taller, a bit quicker and a more polished boxer. So it became apparent Suggs would have to win by slugging it out.

After the first round, South Coach Tom Coulter, who was working Suggs' corner, told his fighter, "Let's make a war out of this."

"If I had stuck to boxing, that's where he's most effective," Suggs said.

"It was obvious {Suggs} couldn't box with {Byrd}, so I told him to go out and get him," Coulter said. "Anthony works very hard and he's a good listener. And he's so strong. I don't think he would have won standing off. Joe Byrd {Patrick's father and coach} said, 'You slipped one by us.' He didn't expect us to do that."

Byrd, who was given a standing-eight count in the second and third rounds, said he thought he won the fight, which the judges scored 4-1 for Suggs.

"I thought I threw more punches," Byrd said. "I got in a slugging match, but I thought I still pulled it out."

Countered Coulter, "You have to score with those punches. Anthony did a good job keeping his hands up and he was catching {Byrd's punches} on the arms. It's the amount you score with the white portion of the gloves, not how many punches you throw."

Suggs fights left-handed, but is naturally right-handed, which helps explain his powerful right hook.

"In the second round, he tried to slug with me and I figured he was making a mistake," Suggs said. "That's when I digged to the body. When I digged to the body, he lowered his hands and I could turn the hook over."

Some of the power comes from work in the gym and some from working for his coach, Troy Stone, building homes in Stafford County.

"I drive nails, shovel dirt, haul bricks," said Suggs, who might have been tired from having run six miles this morning in order to make weight.

Suggs had the crowd behind him tonight, and in his upset win over U.S. Amateur champ Charles Murray in the semifinals, he had the support of much of his family. His wife Angela, son Anthony Jr., daughter Ashley, father William and brother Andre drove down and stayed with Suggs' grandmother, Ethel.

"I don't like to mention to her that I'm going to fight," Suggs said of his grandmother, "because she gets upset every time I go. When I come back, she's always looking at my face."

Suggs graduated from T.C. Williams High School in 1984.

"Most kids don't like school or do a lot until you're getting out," he said. "Then you realize that you're getting out and you have to face the real world. You can't depend on mom and dad. In elementary school, I was real bright. But then in junior high, I met new people and got influenced the wrong way. I got in trouble and cut class. Now I realize school is no joke -- you're there to learn."

Now 21, Suggs started boxing at the Alexandria Boys Club at 17, which is much later than the age at which most boxers begin.

"I always wanted to box but there was never a boxing club near me," Suggs said. "Then I heard about this boxing team that was starting. I worked out on my own and my father boxed so he helped me."

Juggling a job, training and family has not been easy.

"It's been very difficult and I'm looking for a sponsor so I can work out and take care of my kids," Suggs said.

Like others, Suggs would like to fight in the Olympics in Seoul in 1988. But he knows he's still a long way from having a plane ticket to the Orient. With a smile on his face and a gold medal around his neck, he said, "One step at a time."

World and U.S. Amateur champ Kelcie Banks was hardly impressive, but won a decision over Tony Braxton to capture the gold medal in the featherweight division. Braxton, a marine stationed at Camp LeJeune, N.C., was a winner in the Mayor's Cup tournament in Washington, July 11.

In tennis, Stacey Martin, 16, of Largo, Md., and partner Debbie Moringiello of North Brunswick, N.J., representing the East team, defeated the North pair of Dawn Martin of St. Clair Shore, Mich., and Meredith Geiger of Edmond, Okla., 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), today to win the gold medal in women's doubles.

"{Martin has} been a battler since I've known her," said Steve Strome, her coach at the 1986 festival in Houston who has followed her progress since she was 12. "Last year, she lost to the first or second seed in the second round of play in a tough, tough match. She was tough mentally last year; some kids have that and some don't."

But circumstances may have been too much for Martin to handle this afternoon. After the doubles match, which took place in 100-plus-degree heat, she was taken for drug testing. It took 3 1/2 hours.

She then lost to Deborah Graham of Fountain Valley, Calif., for the singles title, 6-1, 6-1.

"She's a very tough competitor and never gives up," said Graham. "But I think I kind of got her on an off day, anyway."

Said Martin, "It didn't affect me other than being a little tired. Mentally, I looked at it like it was just another match and put everything else behind me."

Observers at the match contrasted the two players, saying Graham is big and strong, while Martin is creative.

"That's funny, I've never thought of myself as that type of player," Martin said. "In the beginning, my biggest advantage was to pound the ball. Now, I'm much smarter. I try to use strategy. I have a good touch with drop shots and short-angle shots. But as far as my whole game, I like to hit the ball fast and hard."

Soon after learning to hold a racket, Martin began playing in local tournaments. But she quickly outgrew the competition Largo and the Washington area had to offer. When she was 14, she was winning 18-year-old age group tournaments.

"She knows what's happening on the court. She knows where everyone is and what shot to hit and how hard to hit it," said East coach Roland Ingram, who watched her finish eighth last week in the national hard court championships. "Her shot selection is one of the best I've ever seen on the junior level."