SEATTLE, AUG. 4 -- Were it not for a phone call made in November 1988, U.S. boxer Sergio Reyes might not have won a gold medal today at the Goodwill Games.
Reyes, a feisty, 5-foot-3 bantamweight (119 pounds) from Fort Worth, was stuck in Guam with the Marines, pulling barracks duty, when he heard that former Olympic coach Roosevelt Sanders had been hired to coach the Marine Corps boxing team at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Reyes called Sanders and told him he was staying in shape and still wanted to box competitively. Sanders, remembering Reyes from that year's Olympic trials, made some calls of his own. In three months -- "That's fast," Sanders said -- Reyes had been transferred to North Carolina, and the United States found itself a dramatic little fighter.
In the first of two days of gold-medal fights on the final weekend of the Goodwill Games, Reyes won a 3-2 decision over Bulgaria's Serafim Todorov, the silver medalist at the 1989 world championships.
His was the first of two American gold medals at Seattle Center Coliseum, the boxing venue. Flyweight Tim Austin of Cincinnati defeated Dzhambulat Mutayev of the Soviet Union in the final bout of the afternoon, 3-2.
The United States won two golds, one silver and four bronze medals today. Cuba took two golds and one silver and the Soviet Union one gold, two silvers and six bronzes.
Six more bouts will be held Sunday, with three featuring Americans boxing against Soviets. One fight at 125 pounds pits two U.S. boxers, Oscar de la Hoya and Ivan Robinson. (The United States and Soviets each had two boxers in every weight class; other nations filled out the field.)
The results showed that an NFL-style parity has settled in on Goodwill Games boxing. At the first Games in Moscow in 1986, the Soviet Union filled 20 of the 24 spots in the finals and won 11 gold medals. The United States's Arthur Johnson won the other gold medal in the flyweight, or 112-pound, division.
There has been a change here. Reyes was fighting a Bulgarian, not a Soviet, but he was a confident and relentless fighter today.
Four inches shorter than Todorov, Reyes looked like the little kid on the block taking on the bully. His strategy was simple: "Stay inside, work the body punches and throw hooks to the head."
Todorov's attempts to use his reach were fruitless. Reyes, fighting with a bruised right hand, appeared in control of the fight, burrowing his way in and staying put as Todorov flailed away in frustration over him.
"This heart of mine keeps wanting," Reyes said.
"He's a go-getter," said Sanders, who was a coach on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. "As soon as the bell sounds, he's off the mark. That's the way we teach them at Camp Lejeune. That's the way I teach."
Once Reyes made the call to Sanders, Sanders told his superiors that they had a nationally ranked boxer sitting in Guam and should get him to North Carolina, where Sanders was put in charge of strengthening the program.
Reyes, now 20, had lost to Kennedy McKinney in the quarterfinals of the 1988 Olympic trials. McKinney went on to win the gold medal in Seoul.
Reyes lost a year of international experience in 1989, but came back and won the Marine championship earlier this year, allowing him to embark, once again, on an international career.
"He's a warrior," Sanders said, "and that's what we're looking for. He almost slipped through the cracks."
It is an individual sport, but national teams keep track of the medal count.
The Cubans were complaining about judging today. Julio Gonzales, who lost a 3-2 decision to Artur Grigoryan of the Soviet Union in the 132-pound (lightweight) division, said he would have had to knock out the Soviet "to come out with a decision here."