SEATTLE, AUG. 2 -- Larry Donald, the best amateur super heavyweight in the United States, had a longer career as a shoe salesman than he has had as a boxer.

Donald sold shoes in Cincinnati for four years. He has boxed for three. So, to say the United States is a little weak in this most glamourous of weight classes is to understate the case.

But Donald understates nothing. He worked his way to this weekend's finals of the Goodwill Games boxing competition at the Seattle Center Coliseum with a unanimous, 5-0 decision tonight over East German Maik Heydeck, who was third in the 1989 world championships and was supposed to be a formidable opponent for Donald.

In his first bout, Donald beat West Germany's Wolfgang Haas when the referee stopped the contest in the second round. The fact that he beat a West German, then an East German, on his way to the final was not lost on him tonight.

Not only does Donald dance, jab and talk like his idol, Muhammad Ali, he also makes up poems.

"I took care of the West,

"And I took care of the East,

"And that's my biggest relief."

Donald, who came to boxing at the relatively advanced age of 20, has fashioned himself after Ali in all ways.

"I love the way he promoted himself in and out of the ring," Donald said. "He was his biggest promoter. I like that."

It's gotten to the point where the crowd in the arena has picked up on his act. "Ali! Ali!" they chanted Tuesday night, although, tonight, even as Donald continually popped Heydeck, they simply cheered and called him by the right name.

"This was boxing without boxing," he said. "I planted my foot a little more trying to get him out of there. It was very easy."

Donald had predicted a second-round knockout tonight and didn't get it, so he was a bit chagrined.

"I'd give myself a B," he said. "I didn't do what I predicted. But I've got another prediction for the next fight {against Soviet Yevgeni Belousov}. The fight won't go three."

This is boxing talk, but it's filling a vacuum in one of the weaker divisions in the world. Donald is a welcome relief, even if some of his poems fall a bit flat. The other day, after beating Haas, he was asked to come up with a verse and wasn't prepared. But he tried:

"If the clown goes past three,

"I'd be sure and sit down."

It was, after all, spur of the moment.

But where his future is concerned, the words work.

"I'm fixing to be the world heavyweight champion in 1994. And talk no more."

And why not? Donald has moved from being an unknown fighting at the Ohio State Fair in 1987 to being one of the stars of a fine competition at the Goodwill Games.

Donald grew up playing basketball, although his father was a regional Golden Gloves champion in 1966, the year before Donald was born. He learned bits and pieces about the sport from his father, but still never tried boxing until he wandered into a gym to visit some friends.

At age 20, he was hooked.

"Basketball was a team sport and boxing was individual," he said. "You can appreciate something if you do it yourself."

His first bout was at the fair. He won. "But I was so tired, I had to lay down," he said. "I was very sick."

He was working for Payless Shoes when a coach named Jackie Shropshire wandered in and told him he could help him. Soon, Donald was traveling to national and international competitions, usually losing. However, he has won the last two national Golden Gloves titles.

Five months ago, after four years, he quit his job at the shoe store and became, officially, a full-time fighter.

Then, he could devote all his time to chasing a legend. It's almost certainly unreachable, but the pursuit, he says, is the important thing.

"I don't try," he said of emulating Ali. "It's just something natural. I don't have any control over it. When I got older, I watched Ali fight, but I also watched the Sugar Ray Robinsons, the Sugar Ray Leonards, the Durans, the Jack Johnsons. I take a little bit from lots of fighters. Ali was the greatest fighter. I want to be the ultimate fighter."