The names rise up out of the past, like broken ghosts: Duane Bobick. John Tate. Jimmy Clark. Tyrell Biggs. All were American amateur heavyweight champions, and all had one thing in common.
Those four, and some others, were all beaten--Bobick and Tate savagely, Biggs three times--by Cuba's three-time Olympic champion, Teofilo Stevenson, now 35.
Eventually, you figure, some sturdy young American will make up for a decade and a half of Stevenson beating up on U.S. heavyweights and give him his what for.
Next in line: Alex Garcia, 24, from San Fernando. Garcia, 210, started boxing 18 months ago, after serving 9 1/2 months at Soledad State Prison on a voluntary manslaughter charge.
Stevenson, at a trim 207 pounds, reached the final of the World Championships at the Reno/Sparks Convention Center Friday with a 4-1 decision over a stationary target from the Soviet Union, Vycheslav Yakolev. Garcia, in a Rocky-like semifinal, stopped Italian Biagio Chianese.
The United States team had a banner semifinal day, sending five boxers into today's and Sunday's finals. Four of them will face Cubans for world titles.
In bouts with American finalists today, featherweight Kelcie Banks meets Cuba's Jesus Sollet; welterweight Ken Gould meets Cuba's Candelario Duvergel; middleweight Darin Allen meets East German Henry Maske, and Garcia faces Stevenson.
In Sunday's final session, light-heavyweight Loren Ross meets Cuban Pablo Romero. Late Friday night, Ross decisioned Bulgaria's Dejan Kirilov, 3-2.
Cuba, striving to top the five gold medals it won at each of the last three World Championships, has finalists in 9 of the 12 weight classes.
On the 12-bout afternoon semifinal session, the Americans were hot and the Eastern Europeans were not. The United States was 4 for 5, with only heavyweight Michael Bent losing. But Soviet, East German, Bulgarian and Polish boxers went 1 for 9.
Bent's defeat, a 4-1 decision by light-hitting Arnold Van der Lijde of the Netherlands, was a surprise. Bent had registered the upset of the tournament Wednesday when he beat the 1982 world champion, Alexander Yagubkin of the Soviet Union.
Banks, possibly the best pure boxer on the U.S. team, ran up a routine 4-1 decision over East Germany's Andreas Zulow.
Banks predicted victory over his final foe, Cuba's Jesus Sollet.
"The Cuban won't move like the German--he'll be right in front of me," he said. "I'll go in and out with combinations."
Gould achieved a 5-0 welterweight win over Hungary's Tibor Molnar in a bout with little action. In the finals, Gould will meet slick Cuban Candelario Duvergel.
Allen pounded Cuba's Julio Quintana at will in handing the Cubans only their second loss in 33 bouts. Allen came out smoking. After a minute, he'd already rocked Quintana with punches to the head and some thundering body shots. When Allen drove Quintana into the ropes in the second round and British referee Rod Robertson gave Quintana a standing eight-count, the noisy crowd of about 500 got into it, sending up the first "USA! USA!" chant.
Cuban Coach Alcides Saggara was getting verbal, too. In his corner between rounds, Saggara screamed at his boxer and slapped him across the face to make certain everything was perfectly clear. It didn't work. Allen beat him soundly, got a 5-0 verdict, and the Cubans didn't squawk.
Allen had vowed to "Go to Cuba and live for 30 days" if he lost to the Cuban. Afterward, when asked about his final opponent, East Germany's Henry Maske, Allen quipped: "If I lose to him, I'll go to East Germany and live for 60 days. But I won't lose. I'll beat him, then win at the Pan-Am Games and the Olympics."
The Garcia-Chianese bout was a wild one. Garcia was landing one bomb after another on the Italian when Chianese woke up everyone with a right to Garcia's jaw. Garcia's knees buckled, and he almost went down. By the time the round ended, Garcia had had one standing-eight and Chianese two.
In the second, Chianese had seemingly turned the bout around. He was connecting to Garcia's head and body with big punches until a huge right by Garcia sent him reeling into the ropes.
At this point, a confused South Korean referee, Hong Chen Seng, lost track of Chianese's standing eight-counts. Three in one round or four in a bout ends a fight, and when Hong ended his third standing-eight of the bout on Chianese, he started to declare Garcia the winner.
After the Italian corner protested and ringside officials finally got through to Hong that Chianese had one standing-eight to go, the bout resumed. A powerful Garcia left hook ended the bout a minute later.