"Janks is truly the most important person in Ray's career. He gets the least publicity because he doesn't care about publicity. All he cares about is Ray Leonard. He loves Ray. People ought to know about Janks." -- Mike Trainer, Leonard's lawyer
LAS VEGAS, Sept. 17 -- If Ray Leonard is sweet sugar, Janks Morton is biting vinegar. A college linebacker and fullback 20 years ago, once an undefeated amateur heavyweight, Morton has the storm clouds-gathering presence of a brooding Jimmy Brown. He says he has been offered "bribes. . . big sacks full of money" to deliver Leonard to certain promoters. "I laugh at them," he says.
The big promoters, the Don Kings and Bob Arums who get rich by controlling important fighters, swim aimlessly around Leonard, who controls his own destiny in consulation with only Janks Morton and the lawyer Mike Trainer. The sharks, Trainer says, hate Leonard for this and want to see him lose. The lawyer suggests darkly that the bizarre scoring of Wednesday night's fight, which had Leonard behind on points entering the 13th round, is evidence of hungry sharks in the water.
Even with Leonard winning easily, as Morton saw it, the trainer wanted the conclusive knockout that would frustrate the sharks again.
So Morton called Leonard forward in the 13th after seeing signs of defeat in Hearns.
"Tommy was hurt," Morton said. "His legs were gone. He couldn't throw any punches with power."
In the 13th, Leonard was a masterful boxer-puncher, evading Hearns' early flurry until he landed a hook tilting Hearns onto one foot. "Now, Ray," Morton shouted, and Leonard rushed inside with a dozen punches.
He ended it in the 14th much as he had planned it with Morton. "We watched hours of films of Hearns," Morton said. "I'd seen Tommy many times as an amateur. He can't change his style. Ray only had to move laterally and counterpunch. That's what we worked on. Ray won the fight easy."
For 10 years, Morton has been Leonard's trainer, confidante, buddy, disciplinarian, counselor and ring tactician. Two other names have been connected to Leonard: Dave Jacobs helped train Leonard until let go a year ago after run-ins with Morton; of Angelo Dundee, the champion's manager and cornerman, Morton says, "I train Ray, Angelo doesn't." Morton, not Dundee as usual, came to a press conference with Leonard this morning.
The press conference showed how much of Janks Morton is in Ray Leonard. The answer is, a whole bunch.
Just as Morton used the words "envy and jealousy" the other day in saying Washington, D.C., didn't give proper credit to its hometown fighter, so did Leonard use them today to say some people resent his millionaire's success.
As Morton believes the sharks are there, so did Leonard say, "Well, 'they' don't want me to win . . . . I would've lost a close decision . . . . I don't know why, I just think I'm an exception to the rule (the unwritten rule in boxing that says the champion gets the advantage in a close fight)."
Morton grew up in Cincinnati where he saw "the good, the bad and the ugly" of life in an urban area with immigrants from Appalachia and the deep South. He knocked out 12 men in 13 amateur fights, but he gave up boxing and basketball for a football scholarship. He wanted an education, just as, 20 years later, Ray Leonard would say he wanted a degree.
With a degree in physical education and social services, Morton figured he could do what he wanted. His best teaching-coaching offer, though, was for $5,600. He saw racism, blaming the bleak offers on "the pigmentation of my skin. . . I couldn't feed my family on $5,600." So for four years he sold insurance around Cincinnati.
When he had job possibilities in Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, he chose Washington because its thousands of government jobs promised steady work. With a partner, Jack Rogers, Morton designed an insurance program for the Civil Service.
That was in 1968.
A year later he met a skinny kid playing around at gymnastics and wrestling. By then Morton was a volunteer worker at the Palmer Park (Md.) Recreation Center, where, he said, "They only had one pair of boxing gloves, and they were old and ragedy." He and the center's director, Ollie Dunlap, bought a $40 pair of gloves.
One thing Morton remembers about the skinny kid named Ray Leonard is that he broke his shoulder wrestling. He was 13. By then Morton had two sons of his own, one 2 years old and the other 5, and it was easy for him to talk to this skinny kid. They talked about everything. Morton told the kid it was a cold world out there. He told him you had to earn whatever you wanted, nobody would give it to you.
He told the kid he wanted to see every report card from school. To keep coming to the recreation center, he would have to have Cs or better.
"Ray came close to missing on it once," Janks Morton said, "but I talked to him. He never came close again."