Lewis began flying around the world to attend all of Frazier's fights. Never one to keep a low profile, Lewis was mistaken for an American promoter by a group of German boxing enthusiasts. "Being young and brassy, I let them go on thinking that," Lewis says. "Soon we were talking about promoting an Ali fight in Munich. I said, 'Why not? Let's get it on.' And at that very moment, I became a promoter. What the hell, I had a gift of gab, right?"
Lewis took his life savings out of the bank and began chasing Ali, often cornering him, always trying to talk him into fighting in Munich. It became a comic routine on a zigzagging tour of the world.
Ali: "Why you here?"
Lewis: "You know why I'm here."
Herbert Muhammad: "You've got to be crazy. You never even promoted a club fight. Get lost."
Worn down, Ali finally relented. He agreed to fight Richard Dunn in Munich. Lewis joined Bob Arum of Top Rank and co-promoted the fight. Then they promoted the Ali-Inoki boxing-wrestling farce in Tokyo, and the 1976 Ali-Ken Norton fight at Yankee Stadium.
"Every time we went to the post we lost our shirts," Lewis says. "Everybody made money but the promoters."
Like so many other boxing promoters looking for action and pro prospects, Lewis went to the Olympics in Montreal. The night that Leon and Michael won their gold medals, Lewis introduced himself. He also extended an invitation: Would the two brothers like to be his personal guests at the Norton-Ali fight in September? Would they ever! One month later Leon signed a three-year promotional contract with Arum-Lewis. It carried an option for an additional two years.
Signing a promotional contract was one thing; signing a managerial contract was quite another. While he was still in Montreal, Spinks signed a pact with Millard (Mitt) Barnes of St. Louis, one of the many boxing figures on the scene. The contract has since become a center of controversy. Barnes claims that the contract makes him Spinks' manager for three years with an option for three more. Spinks now asserts that the contract is invalid, that all it does is give Barnes 30% of his fight earnings, for which Barnes does absolutely nothing, according to Spinks.
A blocky, muscular man of 250 pounds, Barnes is an organizer for Teamster Union Local 600 in St. Louis. Eight years ago he was driving a truck and operating a small gym in the basement of the Railroad YMCA Hotel. He says that one day Spinks, then 16, wandered in and asked for a place to train and a place to sleep. Barnes says he gave him both.