After he had won a split-decision victory over Muhammad Ali Wednesday night to claim the world heavyweight championship, Leon Spinks tried to put the fray's outcome in perspective.
"He's still the greatest," Spinks said of Ali, "I'm just the latest."
Both boxers showed up at yesterday's postfight press conference wearing tinted glasses to hide some of their battle scars, and there was talk of a rematch between the latest and the greatest.
"Next time I'll have to get on my toes to beat him," said Ali, looking forward to another encounter with Spinks. 'My rope-a-dope didn't work. He was too strong. It was more a mistake in strategy. I could say a lot of things were wrong, but they would signed a statement with the World excuses. It was close, but he beat me."
Spinks who said he will "do quite a bit of traveling" before getting serious about another fight, indicated he would give Ali a rematch. But he signed a statement with the World Boxing Council prior to Wednesday's fight, agreeing, in the event he won the title, to first defend it against No. 1 contender Ken Norton.
There are further complications. Bob Arum, head of the Top Rank, Inc., promotional firm, wants to match Spinks against an "option" opponent, such as Bernardo Mercado of Bolivia or Kallie Knoetze of South Africa. He would have such a bout take place in May, with an Ali rematch in September or October.
These plans fly in the face of the edict from the World Boxing Council, which wants Spinks to fight Norton with "no intervening contests."
Appearing at the press briefing was a New York attorney, Milt Chwasky, who is a friend of Arum's. Chwasky said any speculation about Spinks' next opponent is "premature", but that the new champion feels "strongly" about giving Ali a return bout.
Spinks was asked about St. Louis Teamsters Union figure "Mitt" Barnes, who has been described as Spinks' manager. Barnes gets 30 percent of Spinks' purses under a three-year contract, with options for two more three-year contracts.
"He is a good man," Spinks said, but when he was asked if he wants Barnes "back" as his manger, the champ said, "No." Asked to elaborate he said, "Talk to my lawyer (Chwasky). Trainer Sam Solomon insisted that Spinks presently is "his own manager" and Spinks nodded as [TEXT OMMITTED FROM SOURCE]
Spinks said he and his family and friends were up long after the fight drinking champagne.
Leon Spinks acknowledged that it felt odd to be the champ. "I don't know what to make of it yet," he said. "I have my greatest dreams now, but I guess I have new goals. My goal is the same as Ali's - to retire with the championship. I kept saying to myself, 'I did it! I did it!'"
Spinks said he was hurt a couple of times during the fight but was never close to being knocked down.
"I knew I was always in it and I knew I had to go all out in the last few rounds," Spinks said. "It was a great fight, very exciting. I feel a little sorry for him (Ali) but I'm proud of myself."
Nobody has ever won the heavyweight title with so little professional experience - seven fights. Pete Rademacher fought for the crown with fewer pro bouts, making his pro debut in a 1957 title bid against Floyd Patterson. But he was stopped in six rounds.
Ali, meanwhile, finds himself in a position to become the first man to win the title three times.
"Winning the championship two times is rough," said Ali. "Only me and Floyd Patterson have done it. If I can win it a third time, I think I'll establish a record that won't be broken in a thousand years.
"I'm gonna let him have the title for a couple of months to enjoy it, then I will return," the 36-year-old Ali declared, eying a rematch later this year or in 1979.
"Thirty-seven ain't too bad," he said. "No worse than 36."