THE SEOUL GAMES / THE FINAL DAY : Boxing Coach Adams Says He’ll Join Pro Ranks

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

Ken Adams, the U.S. Olympic boxing team coach, indicated Sunday that he soon would become a pro boxing trainer, probably for Las Vegas-based promoter Bob Arum, and would take several members of the Olympic team with him.

Adams said he had “listened to some offers” from pro boxing organizations in Houston, New York and Las Vegas.

“I haven’t accepted anything from anyone, but I’m leaning toward the Top Rank people,” Adams said, referring to Arum’s firm, Top Rank Inc.

During the Olympics, Adams denied that he had been offered a position by Arum.


On Sunday, several hours after the end of the boxing tournament, he emphasized that he has not used his Olympic team position to recruit boxers.

“Several kids have come up to me and asked me about my plans after the Olympics, but I haven’t told them anything, I haven’t discussed pro boxing with any of them. I didn’t intend to do that until after the Olympics.”

Adams, 47, who is retiring after 30 years in the Army, wouldn’t say which U.S. Olympians would be going to Las Vegas with him. But two of the three U.S. gold medalists, Ray Mercer and Kennedy McKinney, would seem to be likely candidates, because both have been Army boxers. McKinney was discharged last spring.

The ethics of the situation, to say nothing of the timing, of an Olympic team coach moving into pro sports with his Olympic athletes, quickly came into question.


“I’m troubled as much by the timing of Adams saying that as anything,” said Col. Don Hull, president of the USA Amateur Boxing Federation.

“Here we are, right at the end of a great team effort in the Olympics and . . . it spoils it a bit, I think. The Army has been quite good to Kenny, allowing him the opportunity over many years to coach and develop world-class amateur boxers. And to take a whole group of them into the pro ranks . . . it’s disturbing.”

Adams is generally given high marks for his work with the 1988 Olympic team, which won three gold, three silver and two bronze medals. Most impressive was the U.S. team’s physical conditioning. In nearly all the American bouts that went the distance, U.S. boxers were consistently in better physical condition than their opponents.

Adams trained the team for 5 weeks at two Army bases, Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Mercer, 27, a virtually unknown Army boxer 6 months ago, had a sensational Olympics. He stopped every opponent he faced, including the gold-medal favorite, Holland’s Arnold Vanderlijde, and then South Korean Baik Hyun Man for the gold medal.

McKinney, a one-time Army truck driver from Fort Hood, Tex., seemed like a runaway winner over Bulgarian Alexander Hristov Saturday, but in a 5-0 decision, was a 59-58 winner on three cards.

The third gold medalist, Andrew Maynard, an Army cook from Fort Carson, Colo., is believed to be lined up to turn pro with Sugar Ray Leonard’s group.

Adams--like his boxers, who went through a 15-day, 429-bout tournament--was a survivor.


He attacked a USA/ABF accountant on May 12 and was suspended for 6 months, effectively firing him from his Olympic job. On Aug. 16, a Denver arbitrator ordered that Adams be reinstated, and he left almost immediately for Fort Bragg, where the Olympic team was in training under Tom Coulter.

Then, when the Games were under way, Adams was clouded in controversy again. He and his chief assistant, Hank Johnson, misread a bout schedule and failed to get middleweight Anthony Hembrick to his first bout on time. Hembrick was scratched from the Olympics, and because U.S. world champion featherweight Kelcie Banks had been knocked out in a second-day upset, Adams’ team was 1-2 at the outset.

But Team USA regrouped, ran off win streaks of 13 and 10 bouts and came home with a three-gold finish that might have been five. The day after the final session, the American delegation was still beefing about decisions that went against light-flyweight Michael Carbajal and light-middleweight Roy Jones in the finals.

And Adams was reaffirmed what he said were bribery attempts in a gymnasium corridor earlier in the tournament.

Late Sunday, Adams said he had seen, on two occasions, a Korean man showing small gold ingots and a wallet full of cash to two officials. He identified one as East German referee Gustav Baumgardt.

Afterward, a South Korean press officer said the “ingots” Adams claimed to have seen were actually gold-painted souvenir key chains, given to all tournament officials.

“I’m not dumb and I’m not blind,” Adams said. “I got a good look, and I know a key chain when I see one. They were gold ingots.”