God knows where my
life was headin'—got in trouble with the law for little things that might have
gotten bigger if I hadn't gotten that one good scare. See, one night me and two
other guys go up to this man and tell him to give us his money. All he has is
17 cents and a check for $150, so one of the guys with me, just for spite,
decides to tear the check to pieces. Little while later we pass the man on the
street again, and he yells, and before I know it the cops come roarin' up, on
foot and by car. "Stop!" they shout, but we start runnin', and the cop
car's screamin' after me, and I break around a corner and down an alley, my
mouth like sand, my chest thumpin' in my ears, my ears feelin' like they gonna
burn, and I knew right then I ain't got the heart for this. Cops caught one of
the two other guys. Your daddy ran free.
Don't take too
many risks no more. Didn't even want to box again after I won the gold
medal—took a job moppin' floors in a chemical plant near St. Louis, was just
plannin' to ride it out there. Then one night this foreman screamed at me like
a dog for fallin' asleep, and I didn't know what else to turn to.
I go dancin' now
when I need to let the crazy me get out for a little air, dance till dawn, try
to leave him in a sweat puddle right there on the floor. He always seems to
show up again when it's gettin' close to a fight—shoulda seen me tear apart my
room when I couldn't find one of my lucky socks a month before fightin'
But mostly I keep
silent. You've seen me, Michelle, I live in my bedroom; I could rent out the
rest of that house for storage. Barely a stick of furniture after almost three
years there—just my bedroom with the stereo and the TV, and some days all I
need is the bed. I'll just lay there in the quiet, hours pilin' on hours,
thinkin' out loud to myself, starin' at the ceiling. Remember when they turned
ahead the clocks in April? Two days passed before your daddy even knew.
Who am I? No one
really knows, Shelly. Ain't got many friends, I prefer it that way. Got my
promoter, Butch Lewis, guy who wears tuxedos with no shirt and can talk like a
hurricane. All I got to say to people is, Uh-huh, that's right, go talk to
Butch. Then there's my brother Leon, who a lot of folks still mix me up with.
Lord knows, I ain't Leon; that's the man inside me I locked away. Folks say my
name and get no picture, no style or mood to fix me by. Who am I? I'm a
middleweight, a light heavyweight, a heavyweight. I'm whoever it takes to
See, Shelly, if
you're not any one way too long, you're free to be any which way. Night I took
the title from Larry Holmes—who was I? Thought about him for weeks before that
fight, knew how full he was of macho pride. So I came out early with a crazy
man's eyes, dared him to slug, held my hands low and waved to him, C'mon,
sucker, c'mon—Michelle, I looked down at my hand doing that and couldn't
believe it was hooked to me! Threw punches at him from Jupiter, Mars and the
moon, didn't care where they landed, just wanted him to think I was from outer
space. And it worked, it freaked him. I saw fear in his eyes when he realized I
wasn't the man he expected, the one he thought would run.
See, sometimes you
got to be the nigger gangster, and sometimes nice as pie. Night I fought Gerry
Cooney—who was I? Fourth round, I'm feelin' a little tired. That's O.K., I
figure, don't hide it, let him think I'm whipped. See, when Cooney figures he's
got his man beat, he opens up his arms and comes at him the way I do to you,
baby, when I haven't seen you in a month, and the second he did that—bam, bam,
bam, I went crazy. That's the part I love about boxin'—observin', thinkin',
confusin', changin'. Let 'em call me awkward, let 'em call me strange, let 'em
call me Michael Spinks and not know who I am.
I'll dip, I'll
duck, I'll lurch, I'll charge, I'll cower—which me will Tyson see? Ain't
sayin'. This is the way, baby. I'm whisperin' that it could be. Do you like
yourself yet. Shelly, I mean truly? Do that and you can do the hardest thing of
all: lay real still, in your bed, all alone.
You ain't talkin',
girl—speak to Daddy. What you thinkin'? Oh yes, I want you to have a mommy
again, I know my all-aloneness ain't so good for you. But I ain't no shade
tree, Shelly, I'm independent and stubborn and I'm set in my ways, and if that
don't square with what I just told you about changin' colors like a lizard in
the sand, I'm sorry, I can't help it. Both are absolutely true.
Can we make a
deal? I'll get you a new mommy, but just wait for me; right now my mind's too
busy figurin' which me I'll have to be so we can kiss and hug and smile on the
27th when this fight is finally.... No, don't say that, baby, don't think it,
it's not right to feel those things about your daddy. Just pray for me, Shelly.