You read the darndest things in the paper, but when I read that Bob Arum was negotiating a fight for Leon Spinks, I said, "This is the darndest thing I've ever read in the paper."

Then, a couple days later, the boss stopped by and said, "whatever happened to Leon Spinks?"

Well, now, they pay me real money to find out about the darndest things, especially when the boss asks questions, and so here I am on the telephone talking to Irving Rudd, a publicity man for Bob Arum, the big New York fight promoter.

"Leon was in our office last week (Rudd was saying) and you should have seen him.Clear-eyed. Shiny new teeth. A fur coat you wouldn't believe. Me, I'm 5-feet-5, or I would have taken that fur coat right off him. Great shakes. I took a poke at his ribs, just playing around, and liked to fracture my fists. Rock-hard, Leon is.

"I'm telling you, he's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, None of that sulking, suspicious nature. God forbid, it could change any time, but the only word I can use for Leon right now is pussucat. He's a pussycat. Leon may not be Daniel Webster when it comes to speeches, or even Daniel Moynihan. Listen, he didn't go to Swarthmore. But he has a mother wit. Leon's getting it together."

On Sept. 15 last fall, Spinks lost the heavyweight championship to Muhammad Ali. He had won the title from Ali earlier in the year. Both fights were promoted by Arum, who talked trash about Spinks after the second fight in New Orleans.

He said Spinks lost because he was on durgs and/ or drunk instead of training. He said Spinks was carousing until all hours in nightspots where Arum's security people were afraid to go. Spinks' behavior, Arum said, was one of the greatest tragedies in boxing history. You got the idea Arum didn't want to be in the same world with Leon Spinks.

"Bob was just annoyed at the throwing away of talent (Rudd again). We had this great picture of Leon on the office wall. He's launching a right at Ali. Leon saw it and said, 'I'd like to have a copy of that.' Bob took the frame and all right off the wall and said, 'It's yours.' Leon left with the picture under his arm. Everything's cool."

Everytime you pick up the paper, Leon Spinks is wrecking his car or firing his lawyer. So I called the latest lawyer to be fired, Edward Bell of Detroit, who said the darndest thing. His last work for Spinks, he said, was to file a lawsuit against Bob Arum for the remarks in New Orleans.

"The suit seeks damages well into six figures," Bell said. It's being handled now by Leon's new lawyer, named Sanford Roth."

The attorney Roth said nothing is going on, that the lawsuit is "in a holding pattern." The lawyer also said he was working on fights for Spinks. So I could imagine the lawyer holding the suit over Arum's head as a threat to get a better deal for his client fighter. I imagine that, but then I was ashamed because lawyers are honorable people and boxing is a pure and innocent endeavor. I admonished myself, and went on to ask the lawyer Roth how Spinks is doing these days.

"He now is a resident of Detroit," Roth said. "He's a homeowner here. Bought a home in October, I believe, a beautiful place, and he's living with his wife and son. Leon has planted rootsd here. He's into a modified training, doing some running but not boxing yet. He's regretful over the extended layoff."

Then Roth said the darndest thing.

He said he could arrange an interview with Spinks if I would call back the next day. Spinks' brief reign as the heavyweight champion was marked by his refusal to recognize time and place. If he promised to meet you in Des Moines at 5 o'clock, he might be in Mobile at 9, wondering where he made a wrong turn.

But the next day, Spinks was there on the telephone, saying, "I've been running three-four miles every day. It's about time to go back into training."

As he said in September, Spinks said he lost the second Ali fight because his mind wasn't on it. "Penny ante things," he said when asked what was on his mind. "I don't look back, but there were a lot of things bothering my mind instead of me taking care of myself."

What about the things Arum said?

"Naturally, I didn't like them. Whatever he said was a lie. What he said wasn't ture, anyway. We talked last week and he apoligized to me. He said he was sorry and didn't mean what he said."

Has Spinks' life changed since that Ali fight?

"I'm going slowly but surely now. I've slowed things down. I'm staying in one place now. It wasn't that nobody knew where I was before, I just didn't tell anybody where I was going."

Then Spinks said the darndest thing.

"I've had my last fling. That was good for me."

Spinks said he wanted to fight two or three times a year. For how long?

"I want to fight long enough to make enough money to lay on my butt."

He laughed, and it seemed as good a time as any to ask how in the name of sweet reason he could deal with Bob Arum, a man he is suing for slander?

Spinks grew up in a ghetto. For him, life has not been a series of decisions based on high principle. Life is survival: World wearily, he said, "You gotta deal with somebody."

In New York, Arum was on the telephone, saying he and Apinks had a terrific lunch. "We always got along," he said. Arum said he was so upset in New Orleans because of all the hangers-on that we saw destroying a fighter "with more ability than any heavyweight."

Arum confirmed he apologized to Spinks and, in what may be news to the Detroit lawyer Roth, said the sixfigure lawsuit has been dismissed.

"We are making plans for a major fight for Leon at the beginning of May," Arum said.

Arum wants a Spinks-Kallie Knoetze fight, but Knoetze may be denied a work visa by the U.S. As a South African cop, he once shot a black child in the legs. Some people don't like that and want to keep Knoetze out of the country.But then, some people don't believe boxing is pure and innocent. You know how some people are.