Growing up in the public housing projects of Annapolis, Waymon Beavers started taking karate lessons when he was 9 -- mainly because he had to fight a lot.
"I was small and skinny," Beavers said. "I had to do something to keep from getting beat up."
Nearly 17 years later, Beavers is at the top of his field. He is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. super lightweight division and No. 3 in all divisions combined.
He has a chance to compete against the best karate champions in the world next week in the Soviet Union. But that chance hinges on money, which he lost last week when one of his sponsors backed out.
Beavers says he needs at least $500 for a plane ticket and other expenses before he can join 19 other athletes at the international competition in St. Petersburg.
The 26-year-old Glen Burnie resident said he doesn't know which sponsor backed out. The coach of the American Unified Martial Arts Team set up a team of sponsors, he said, and his backer apparently ran into financial problems.
Beavers' cause has been taken up by Matthew Thomas, a member of the Black Political Forum and a close friend, who says such athletic talent should not be wasted.
"He is a hidden jewel in this city," Thomas said, contributing
a $100 bill to the fund for Beavers' trip. Headded that Beavers is one of three blacks on the 20-member team. "Hehas worked hard to be a success. We should seek out these individuals and give them support."
Beavers said he has accumulated 329 trophies since 1989 alone. But the hard work and training it took to get him to the top didn't come easily. The biggest obstacle wasn't the five-day-a-week training sessions but his mother, Delores.
"At one point, my mother begged me to stop," Beavers said. "I came home with bruises and she was, like, 'They are beating my child to death. Will you please stop?' "
Later, Beavers said, his mother watched him compete at the Annapolis Recreation Center. "She said, 'I'm glad you didn't stop.' "
Beavers was selected for the national team headed forthe Soviet Union after winning his weight division at an international competition in August.
Of the 20 participants, five are from Maryland.
"I definitely want to make sure Waymon gets to the Soviet Union and gets to compete," Thomas said. "I'm going to make sure he does it."
Anyone wishing to help Waymon Beavers get to St. Petersburg should call 268-0441.