Smith lets his fists do all the talking Quiet, dedicated, now a top amateur

April 17, 1993|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Contributing Writer

Lonnie Smith isn't a talker.

He doesn't like to boast or brag and isn't fond of those who do.

"If you're going to talk, you'd better be able to back it up," hsaid.

And backing it up is Smith's specialty.

Smith, a Towson State junior, is one of the top amateur boxers ithe area. He lives in Maryland City and trains at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

Fighting in the super-heavyweight division, Smith, 21, hacompiled a 47-7 record (most of the losses came early on) and is slowly but surely developing into the hottest local ring prospect in recent years.

"He's going to be awesome," said Tom Langley, a 20-year traineat the Laurel club who once oversaw the career of Michael Lee, a cruiserweight ranked No. 14 in the world by Ring Magazine in the late '80s.

"All he's got to do is keep dedicating himself," Langley said. "think when he gets out of school and devotes himself solely to boxing, he can go all the way. I mean top 10 or title."

High expectations for a lanky 6-foot-4 prospect whostemperament is closer to that of Mr. Rogers than Mike Tyson?

Not if you check his record.

He's used his quickness and reach advantage to beat all of tharea's best. His victims include Stan Chambers, the former Navy champion, Baltimore's DeWalt Stewart, once the top-ranked heavyweight in the South Atlantic Region, and Mike Whitfield, a former top amateur who lost to Smith shortly before turning pro.

But it's the dedication that makes Smith special.

A typical day for the full-time student, who is majoring in laenforcement, starts at 7 a.m., when he rises to face a two-hour commute from Maryland City to Towson State.

Several hours later he makes the return trip to work at one of his two part-time jobs. He works a total of 20 hours a week at a Mexican restaurant and a laundry equipment distributorship.

Then it's off to the gym for three hours of grueling training.

First it's stretching and shadow boxing, then the heavy bag and sparring, then the speed bag and stamina drills. As the sweat pours down his face and his legs start to quiver, he tells himself it'll all pay off someday.

When the training is finished it's home for three to four miles of running, and a late-night cram session for the next day's classes.

wasn't born with natural talent," said Langley, "but in the 22 years I've been involved in boxing he's the hardest worker I've ever had."

Langley has trained Smith since the former Meade lacrosse player walked into the gym at age 15. Since then, they have assumed almost a father-son relationship.

Langley said he has worked hard to teach Smith to brespectful, polite and, above all else, humble.

"If my friends didn't know me, they'd never guess I was in such barbaric sport," said Smith.

In fact, Langley believes Smith's one weakness in the ring mabe that he's too nice, rarely putting an opponent away when he has the chance.

The boxer said he's learned through experience that fightinisn't something to be taken lightly. He tells of a trip to Ocean City several summers ago when someone heard he was a boxer and challenged him to a street fight.

"It was just scary," said Smith. "Bang, bang, bang and he waout. I don't think people understand how serious fighting is. What I do is a sport -- it's strictly a competition."

a competition at which Smith excels. He said his short-term goal is to win the Potomac Valley Association Golden Gloves Tournament, currently being held in Southern Maryland, then do well in the regional and national competitions scheduled for later this spring.

Within a year, he wants to turn pro.

Langley said that before that happens, Smith has to gain sommuch-needed national and international ring experience.

"Then when he does turn pro," said the trainer, "it will be a big deal.

"A big deal."

Like every other 21-year-old, Smith said he'd one day like to be rolling in $100 bills on the deck of his yacht. But to him, boxing means so much more.

Throwing jabs and right hooks is the way he expresses himself )) It's a stress relief, he says -- a way to build character and self-esteem.

"Most people don't understand the hours of work that go into it,he said. "You only get out what you put in."

NB And if that's the case, Lonnie Smith is due for a windfall.

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