INDIANAPOLIS -- Three years ago, Pan American Games boxer Andrew Maynard of Cheverly, Md., was fairly certain of what the future held for him, and it went according to a familiar plan. In another life, Andrew Maynard could be doing time.
The plan was -- pick up a basketball game, pick up some dope, wait on tables, wait to get caught. At 19, he was a Palmer Park Gym gadabout, a sometime dope dealer and a partly talented boxer possessed of more street fight, and street foolishness, than actual skills.
"I'd probably be working in a restaurant or something, trying to make some big money, the big drug score. That's what you do," he said. "I probably would've attacked someone. I'd be in jail."
At the risk of making Maynard out to be one of those sweetly patriotic stories who owes everything to the U.S. Army and the love of a woman, it probably should be pointed out that Maynard owes it all to the U.S. Army and the love of a woman. Wife Susan bought him a plane ticket out of the old neighborhood, and the military put some weight on him and let him box.
The result is that Maynard is the reigning national amateur champion at 178 pounds, has been on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" and will be representing his country and the armed services as a light heavyweight this week. The draw for the boxing competition takes place today. At some point, the 22-year-old Army cook will face world champion Pablo Romero of Cuba, and Maynard could beat him.
"Representing the U.S.A. and the Army," he said. "It's got a good ring to it."
It's a proud moment for the son of a truck driver, Theodore, and a member of a family of 14 ("Brace yourself," he said. "Seven brothers and six sisters."). Also a scarcely believable feat looking back to when an aimless 18-year-old Maynard took a job cleaning houses right out of Suitland High School and spent most of his time playing ball and getting high with friends. One afternoon, he was playing across the street from the Palmer Park gym when a friend pointed out that it was the training home of Sugar Ray Leonard. Out of curiousity, Maynard began working out there.
He was noticed by Julius Gatlin, an equipment manager for Leonard, who told Maynard he had good hand speed for his weight. Gatlin offered to coach him, but Maynard was not particularly enthused.
"I didn't know anything about it. I didn't even like it on TV," Maynard said. "I was afraid to put on gloves. My friends said, 'Don't do it, they hit too hard.'
"But then Gatlin told me I could be a champion. He said to do it I'd have to quit smoking dope and be a good guy. I listened to some of it and said to heck with the rest."
Maynard wandered in and out of the Palmer Park society. Still aimless, he decided to join the National Guard in October 1985 and went off to basic training at Fort Dix, N.J.
When he returned to Palmer Park, he weighed 175 and had acquired some new force in his punches. "I was just trying to get myself a good workout," he said. "But a coach told me all the guys were afraid of me. It seemed normal to me, but from the outside I was throwing bombs."
That encouraged Maynard to pursue boxing. In the meantime, he met his wife Susan, who was in the regular Army stationed at Fort Dix. They fell in love and married in August '85. But problems arose while he was back in Palmer Park and she was waiting to get out of the service. Maynard was returning to his old life style.
Susan called him every day trying to convince him not to pick up where he had left off. One day, she called in tears. By the time they hung up, she had talked him into moving to California, her home state. She bought him a plane ticket and sent it to him.
"She would tell me not to get back into my old life, selling drugs, smoking them," he said. "I was a teen-ager trying to be like my peers instead of myself. I had friends and that's all we did.
"But she cried one day, she was all hurt, and she said she knew I was better than that. She saw something in me, can you believe that? I said, 'Well, get me out of Maryland and I'll change my life.' So she sent me a ticket. She actually paid money to help me. I was shocked. I said, 'Do all females act like this?' "
In California, looking for a full-time job after daughter Shamika was born but still wanting to box, he figured the Army would be the best solution, so he enlisted in the winter of 1986.
He was assigned to be a cook. When he told his platoon sergeant he wanted to continue boxing, he was looked at skeptically, and the answer was no, cooks were more in demand. Eventually, Maynard went to his company commander, to whom he made both a plea and an offer.
"Sir," he said. "The '88 Olympics have my name on them, and if I make it, I'll see that you're there."
"If you make it, I'll pay my own way to see you," his commander said.
Shortly after, Maynard was reassigned to special duty with the Fort Carson boxing team in Colorado Springs.
Maynard ran up a 23-1 record in Army competitions and Golden Gloves tournaments over the next year. He first got national attention as a gold medalist at the 1986 Olympic Festival. At the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation championships this spring, he defeated Bomani Parker in a 5-0 decision on national TV. More recently, he won a gold medal at the 1987 Olympic Festival in Chapel Hill, N.C., then decisioned the Soviet Union's Nurmagod Shanavazov in a dual meet.
That was his first international experience. Here, he will have another of greater magnitude and another chance to be on television.
Maynard is given more than passing chance of beating Romero, mainly because his style matches the Cuban's. Maynard is a rangy 6-footer with long legs and arms with which he likes to flail and is the aggressive sort of fighter who will return five or six punches to one.
"If he continues on the same road, he's got a tremendous future," said U.S. Pan Am boxing coach Roosevelt Sanders. "As soon as the bell rings, he's ready to box. It just takes a spark, and as the bout goes on, he picks up tempo. If you're not in top condition when you fight him, it's best just to step between the ropes and get out of the ring."
Maynard simply says said, "I want the Cuban first. I want to get him out of the way. There's a new guy in town and his name is Andrew."
Sanders has had just one problem with Maynard in training, and that is keeping him away from his first love -- basketball. Maynard will find a pick-up game anywhere, anytime, and the problem is that he tends to get hurt. In the last two years, he has broken his nose, broken one ankle and sprained the other, all before major competitions. This week he has been banned from the courts by Sanders, who won't even let him watch the U.S. team on television.
Maynard has had to be content with just boxing. But in the meantime, he has become fascinated with something else: the new attention surrounding him. At his first major news conference here this week, Maynard stood in a circle of cameras, somewhat wide-eyed for a man of the world.
"Wow, so this is the media," he said. "Is this nationwide? Okay, I'd like to say thanks to my Mom and Dad, and the U.S. Army."