Pernell Whitaker, who is the world's top-ranked amateur lightweight (132 pounds) boxer, stormed from the Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas last Friday night, intending to grab his bags and head for his Norfolk, Va. home. "To hell with tomorrow," he snapped to a friend. Whitaker had just been upset by unranked Joey Belinc of Marysville, Wash., in the opening round of the U.S. Olympic team box-offs. Whitaker, 20, a three-time world champion, thought he had won, but all five judges disagreed.
However, as a winner at last month's Olympic trials, Whitaker would get another chance at the 19-year-old Belinc the next day. In a system that is more complicated than it should be, each winner at the trials had to win only one box-off bout to make the team, while the 12 "Most Noteworthy Opponents," as the Amateur Boxing Federation called the losers in the trials, had to win both.
On Friday night, six trials winners won and made the Olympic team. Six others, including three world champions, lost and would have to fight again.
"No way," growled Whitaker, who had decisioned Belinc 4-1 in the trials. "I don't want to fight anymore. I'm going home."
Three hours later, Whitaker's father, Raymond, and mother, Novella, reminded him of his 192 victories in 206 bouts, of his world titles and of his 11 years' work. When his parents finished, Whitaker's girl friend, Rovanda, took over. Then it was Lou Duva's turn.
After the Olympics, Duva, a fight manager and promoter from New Jersey, along with Shelly Finkel, a rock promoter from New York, will co-manage Whitaker as a professional. Shortly before talking to Whitaker, Duva was informed that Belinc had been sparring every day in secret with Bret Summers, a professional junior welterweight with a 16-0 record. Summers, like Whitaker, is a southpaw counter-puncher.
"No wonder the guy improved so much," said Duva, rushing off. A few minutes later he showed Whitaker a tape of his loss to Belinc that night.
"You see what you're doing?" Duva kept asking as they ran the tape twice. "You're moving straight in and he's unloading on you."
"But that's the way I fight," said Whitaker, puzzled.
"And that's why you lost," said Duva. "He was ready for everything you did before you did it. Now come with me."