Eight years ago, a skinny, unknown light-heavyweight boxer from Atlanta qualified for the Olympic Festival boxing tournament at the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs.
Evander Holyfield, then 21, had no way of knowing he would become world heavyweight champion seven years later. He had but one dream in 1983: The Los Angeles Olympic Games.
In his first bout at the '83 Festival, Holyfield earned a 3-2 decision over Ricky Womack of Detroit. In the Festival title match at light-heavyweight, Holyfield defeated Sherman Griffin, 5-0.
Holyfield never forgot Womack's short, jolting right hands.
Shortly after he won the pro heavyweight title by knocking out Buster Douglas last fall, Holyfield was asked who was the hardest puncher he ever faced.
"Ricky Womack," he answered, unhesitatingly. "I fought him a half-dozen times before the L.A. Olympics. No one ever hit me as hard as he did."
Holyfield won a bronze medal at the Olympics, after being disqualified for hitting after a "stop!" command in his semifinal bout.
Earlier, he had made the Olympic team by beating Womack at the U.S. Olympic team boxoffs. Today, Womack is serving a 12-to-25-year sentence in the Michigan state penitentiary at Jackson, Mich., for 1986 convictions on two armed robberies.