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The Last Olympian
Clive Gammon
May 15, 1989
Months after his teammates had already turned pro, Roy Jones made a splashy debut of his own
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May 15, 1989

The Last Olympian

Months after his teammates had already turned pro, Roy Jones made a splashy debut of his own

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Jones Sr. insisted that he was making no commitments to Smith: "He's only an adviser. If it works out, fine; then it will be a long-term relationship."

Should the Smith & Jones marriage succeed, it will not entirely please another member of the Jones entourage, Fredric Levin, one of the top half-dozen personal injury lawyers in the nation. Levin, who joined the Jones team four months ago, says of himself, "In court, when the judge calls me, I close my eyes. The court becomes a ring. I am Muhammad Ali, fighting some bum. And then I am the greatest." Last year Levin estimates that he earned $7 million in gross fees for his firm. He has lost only two cases, he says, one on appeal. He has his own TV talk show, called Lawline, which is not popular with the Florida Bar Association.

Nevertheless, Levin admits that his own lack of self-confidence allowed Smith to wriggle his way into the Jones camp. "I sit in the front row at casinos, and I keep a high profile," Levin said before the fight, holding court in his dark-red velvet office. "But as the man that Roy Sr. wanted to sell Roy Jr. to the TV companies, I felt inadequate. How was I to know that the product would sell itself? So I said, 'Hey, Roy, you got to get me some help." Who else could Roy call on except Smith? Could he call Arum and say, 'Hey, Bob, I got this lawyer in Pensacola who doesn't know what he's doing?' I realize what people are saying now. I realize that every time we walk into an office, somebody is saying, Why Harold Smith?"

Between Smith and Levin there is a palpable tension. The Sunday before the fight, they came close to blows in Levin's office. But on the fight's eve, at a party at Levin's home, the two embraced as Smith said, "We can work it out. We both want the same thing." Cue violins.

In any case it is not Roy Jones Jr.'s future that is of primary concern to Levin right now, but his own. This week, Levin is due to appear before an Atlanta grand jury that is considering allegations of financial wrongdoing against Pensacola's Gulf Power Company. Last month, Levin was one of the last people to speak to a Gulf vice-president, a key figure in the probe, before a company plane crashed just after takeoff from Pensacola, killing the executive and two pilots. Levin has since been living with the knowledge that three others closely connected to the case have either disappeared or been killed. And the FBI has passed the word to Levin that there is a contract out on his life. As if there were any doubt, Levin keeps finding dead canaries around his house.

There was a rather cruel joke making the rounds in Pensacola: You would know who Fred Levin was on fight night because nobody else would be sitting in his section. Fortunately, Levin was around afterward to announce that Jones Jr.'s next fight would be at the Convention Center in Atlantic City on June 11, against Stefan Johnson of New York, who is 10-2. And that it would be televised by NBC.

"I haven't got around to thinking about Johnson yet," Jones Jr. said later. "I'm still thinking about Roy Jones."

He's entitled to that indulgence for a few days. Levin tells how, recently, he thought it appropriate for young Jones to meet with some bankers, so he arranged an appointment.

"He can't go," said Jones Sr. when told of the meeting. "That afternoon he has to clean up the yard." So what did Jones Jr. say to that? Levin is asked.

Levin sighs: "He said, 'Yes, sir.' "

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