Remaining away from the ropes as he battled past three opponents in the preliminary bouts in Colorado Springs, Byrd, a southpaw from Flint, Mich., stopped Harold Roberts in Round 1 of their fight before defeating Ronald Simms and Ray Berry by the combined score of 65-19. In the final against Wright, Byrd gave an aggressive performance that looked to be right out of a textbook.
Joining Byrd and Saturday night's 23 other finalists at the Olympic trials will be the 12 armed forces champions, another 12 Golden Gloves champions, 24 fighters selected by regional boxing committees, plus boxers who will have received at-large berths based on their international rankings. Among this last group will be the six fighters who were working out at the 3-D, including Griffin and two other possible gold medalists, Oscar dc la Hoya at 132 pounds and Ivan Robinson at 125.
The beauty of the qualifying system for the trials is that by awarding a free pass to proven boxers, the door is left open at the national championships for unknowns to make their mark. Last week for the first time, the spotlight was on Arturo Hoffman, 17, a high school junior from Dade City, Fla., who defeated Russell Roberts 40-19 to win the 112-pound championship. Hoffman, though, is not likely to win at the trials. The favorite is Tim Austin, the defending national champion at 112 and the world's fourth-ranked flyweight, who is recovering from a broken hand. Nonetheless, having demonstrated his talent, Hoffman will spend the next four years grooming himself for international competition, especially the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Another promising prospect is Paul Ayala, a green 21-year-old junior college student from Fort Worth who ripped through the nationals like a hurricane until he met the more experienced Sean Fletcher, a Navy petty officer, in the 119-pound final. After three impressive victories, one by the remarkable score of 129-51, Ayala lost 54-33 to Fletcher. Still, it was a most significant national debut.
Youngsters like Hoffman and Ayala will always find the door open to places like the 3-D Gym. And once they get inside, they'll find someone like Nappi yelling "Damn it, kid, get off the ropes. Throw the jab. Punch to the body."
It's the computer age.