A man who knows Leon Spinks well says all this trouble was inevitable.
He says Spinks is a scarred child of the ghetto. Some scars you can see. Some you can't, and they all hurt. They hurt so much Leon Spinks trusts no one.
In the ring, he needs no one. That is this world and he is safe there.
Outside the ring, the man says. Leon Spinks wants to be a good guy. but he doesn't know how to do it.
Twice in six weeks now, Spinks has been in handcuffs.
You wonder about it. Perhaps the St. Louis police have a contest going, with a gold watch given to the cop who nabs the heavyweight champion most often.
They first slapped the cuffs on him for the heinous crime of driving without a license. Two nights ago, acting boldly when provoked by the ominous sight of Spinks driving into a restuarant packing lot at 4 a.m. with his headlights off, they again put him in handcuffs. One presumes they could't find any leg-irons.
This time Spinks has been charged with serious offenses. The police say he carried a bag of marijuana. They say a packet of cocaine was secreted inside his hat. Convicted on those charges. Spinks could spend up to 11 years in prison.
He has denied everything.
Detectives indicated yesterday that the tiny amounts of cocaine and marijuana which led to the arrest have a street value of about $1.50.
"What's he doing out at 4 in the morning anyway? And what's he need those phoney stimulants for? If he's using that stuff, it's because he's out of training right now and he needs the high. Training is Leon Spinks' high."
Rolly Schwartz said that. he's the man who knows Spinks. Whatever happens in amateur boxing in this country, Schwartz knows it. At every level of amateur competition, from the Golden Gloves to the Pan-Am Games to the Olympics, Schwartz has been intimately involved. At Montreal, when Leon Spinks won a gold medal, Schwartz was the Americans' team manager. What the man from Cincinnati was, really, was a dictator.
"You had to sit right on top of Leon all the time," Schwartz said the afternoon of Spinks' second arrest. "In training camp he'd be saying, "man, I'm goin' crazy. I gotta get outta here.' I wouldn't let him go. i told him he was going to win the Olympics - not because of himself but in spite of himself."
"'Do whatever you want to me,' I told Leon. 'You can spit on me and you can hate me, but you are staying in this camp until you win that gold medal.' When he won, he came to me and thanked me."
Even then. Schwartz believed Spinks would amount to nothing.
Raised in a St. Louis ghetto, SPinks escaped into the Marine Corps, getting his discharge shortly after the Olympics. "I felt that in the civilian world. With nobody around to keep Leon disciplined, that he would go right down the drain." Schwartz said.
In February, in his eighth professional fight, Spinks won the heavyweight championship on a split decision over Muhammad Ali. Immediately, Spinks was plunged into a world beyond his grasp. Lawyers argued. Agents screamed. Promoters threated. The St. Louis police arrested him twice. It has been only two months since the Ali fight, and Schwartz said, "What's happening now is what I was afraid of. Everybody who has handled Leon has jabbed him."
Schwartz believes Spinks' troubles began in the ghetto. "His dad left the family when Leon was 8 years old. The dad was a sadist. A hard man. He beat Leon. He left scars all over Leon's body. You've got to come from the slums to understand Leon Spinks. In his heart, he would like to be decent, but when no one is around, he's not disciplined.
"When Leon isn't boxing, he's in trouble. Right now, with the layoff before the next Ali fight, it's a dangerous time for him. He loves the training of fighting, he adores the physical contact adores the sparring.
"And he's a great talent with all the courage in the world. I knew he'd have no problem with Ali. He'd always called Ali a sissy and said he'd put a glove right in his mouth. You could put Leon in the ring against a forest-bred tiger and he'd fight it.
"But once he's out of the ring, he's edgy. He doesn't have anything to do. He's not into academics, he's not into anything.
"He has a great love for ladies, but why not? He's a man. The ladies don't get him into trouble though."
At 4 o'clock in the morning in St. Louis, police said a woman in Spinks' car cursed them. Because of that, the police said, they searched Spinks more diligently. That's when they thought to look inside his hat band.
"They must be out to get the kid," Schwartz said. "To take a kid that's driving without a license and put manacles on him, that's hard to believe. Here's a man who is the heavyweight champion of the world, he has immediate recognition everywhere. He's not going to run away from the police."
What Spinks needs, Schwartz says, is "an exceedingly strong father figure.All he has around him now are people he hires and they're all afraid of him. He's got the power of the dollar sign over them, so they don't tell him what he's doing to himself. I tell you, he can blow $6 million faster than you can say it. Those people are only interested in Leon Spinks, the boxer, not Leon Spinks, the man.
"As the Olympic champion, Leon needed to go to boys clubs and high schools and juvenile homes. That way, Leon could feel some esteem. He could feel like he was doing something to help someone. He completely lacks self esteem. Everybody has always told him he's going to wind up no good.
"Now lawyers are suing him - he's changing lawyers - all that is going on and that's the most destructive thing of all to Leon, because he has been rejected by father figures from the ghetto to the championship. It's a massive paranoia thing now."
Schwartz doesn't think the arrests will end Spinks effectiveness in the ring. "Comeback is the name of this guy's game. He's always been down in the dregs and come back. He just needs someone who he can trust and who is strong enough to direct him."