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Pat Putnam
March 13, 1978
Leon Spinks may fight like a building-wrecker, but he says his mama and the Good Book come before his heavyweight title
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March 13, 1978

The Iron Ball And The Bible

Leon Spinks may fight like a building-wrecker, but he says his mama and the Good Book come before his heavyweight title

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Once more Benton agreed to work with Spinks. He spent long hours explaining the strategy he had devised for Frazier more than two years earlier.

"I tried to tell him the things I'd do as a boxer if I were fighting Ali," Benton says. "We went over the whole thing about killing Ali's jab. But I was uncomfortable around Sam. I guess he thought I was trying to steal his job. Hell with his job. I got a conscience and it's clear. I did a good job with Leon. That's what is important."

The day after the Ali fight, Benton quit the Spinks camp for the second time. "He just got in the way," Solomon says. "He did nothing, nothing. Benton wasn't there in the beginning and didn't know the strategy, so how could he help?"

Last week, as Spinks discoed and dined in such places as Des Moines, Philadelphia, New York and Jacksonville, N.C., the great promotional race was on for his first title defense. Contracts overlapped contracts, offers were exchanged, accepted and denied. Above the maelstrom soared Spinks, who told Lewis, "Just give me a name, a place and a date, and I'll be there."

If only it were that easy. Lewis and Arum spoke of millions, until they spoke to Kenny Norton—and then the figure they mentioned was $200,000. Backed by the WBC, Norton had been demanding the first shot. He said he was insulted by the money Top Rank was offering. He also said that he would take it.

Then there is Ali, the man Spinks and his people would much rather face first—with good reason. A rematch could bring each fighter $5 million. If he meets Norton first, Spinks will take home "only" $1.5 million.

Last Saturday Ali put in his $5 million worth. He staged a televised press conference on CBS, during which he insisted he should be first in line to fight Spinks. "I am truly the No. 1 challenger," Ali proclaimed.

Earlier in the week Lewis and Arum flew to California seeking to convince Norton that he should fight Spinks at a later date, say, September or October. If Norton agrees, they say they will guarantee him $1 million against 20% of everything.

"I don't know why they want to talk to me," Norton says. "I want the title fight now. Even for that lousy $200,000."

Naturally, all of this was subject to change, and most likely will change. Spinks is aware of that—but aloof from it. "Let me know when you get it all sorted out," he says.

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