As though summoned to attention by a drum roll, the sweating men broke from their routine. A trainer who had been dabbing Vaseline on the face of a young 118-pounder paused, greasy hand against greasy cheek. The speed bag swung mutely, its machine-gun chatter briefly stilled. The heavy bag hung un-hit. The heavyweight had arrived, a slight smile on his fresh, unmarked face, his shoulders swaying with the hint of a swagger. Then the moment flickered and passed. The noise resumed. The other cheek was greased. Aaron Pryor, one of the U.S. Pan-American Games boxers, surveyed the largest of his teammates and laughed. "Hey," Pryor yelled, "it's awful nice of you to come over and train."
And so it goes with Michael Dokes, at the moment the best of the country's amateur heavyweights, just 17 years old and a high school senior. There are those who say that he will be—if not the next, then soon—heavyweight champion of the world. After, of course, he wins the gold medal at the Pan-Am Games in Mexico City next week and then at the Olympics next year in Montreal. In fact, Dokes is the first who will make this prediction—and the loudest.
"What I am," says Dokes, only half seriously, "is Mister D, that's me. I call myself Dynomite Dokes. Dyn-o-mite. When I'm moving and grooving, there ain't nobody in the world who can touch me. Speed? They ain't seen nothing. My hands are so fast they can't catch them on film. I can hit a guy three times and all he can think is somebody has snuck up behind him. I told Muhammad Ali, 'I'm gonna get you, old man, so you better get out while you can.' "
Muhammad Ali laughed. Dokes was 15 at the time. Another one who laughed was Clinton Cochrane, the 6'6", 260-pound Army champion who fought Dokes in an AAU semifinal bout at Shreveport, La. last June. Cochrane had been around and he had heard about Dokes and his big mouth.
"I'm from the Army," said Cochrane, looking down at Dokes, who is 6'2" and 195. "We know about you, and they sent me here to cut you down to a midget."
"Listen," said Dokes, "I'm gonna whip you so bad they're gonna have to give you a medical discharge."
Cochrane laughed. Dokes knocked him unconscious in less than 20 seconds of the first round. Then the high school kid from Akron went on to add the AAU title to the Golden Gloves championship that he won two years before. In all, he has won 94 of 99 fights, with 25 knockouts. And he is growing taller and getting heavier.
"I heard Dokes sass Cochrane, and I feared for his life," says Vern Woodward, the Pan-Am team coach. "Then, when the fight started, I turned to say something to someone, and I heard this thump of a body hitting the deck. I missed the whole thing."
A few weeks ago Woodward brought his boxing team to the lofty altitude (6,500 feet) of Durango, Colo. to begin preparing for the Games in even loftier (7,800 feet) Mexico City. All of them worked hard except for Dokes, who insists he is dedicated, but shows no fondness for training. Woodward was just deciding upon a strong action when the fighters took over. They called a ringside meeting.
"He kept telling us he's the champion of this and the champion of that," says Clint Jackson, a 147-pound southpaw deputy sheriff out of Davidson County, Tenn. Jackson has had 115 fights with just 13 losses and he has won 78 by knockout. "I told him, 'You're the champion of nothing here unless you work. All you heavyweights think you're the best. Well, prove it.' "