THE TROUBLED CHAMP
One thing about Leon Spinks: he does not trot along quietly at the end of a public-relations leash. The WBA heavyweight champion is surrounded by managers and would-be managers, promoters, attorneys and advisers—but Leon doesn't listen to any of them. When the spirit moves him, he dons his gunfighter's black hat and he's gone. Last week was typical. Spinks and entourage were in Miami, ready to embark on a personal appearance tour of the Caribbean. Next thing anybody knew, Spinks had gone over the wall. He popped up in St. Louis, in trouble again.
This will-o'-the-wisp routine has been going on ever since Spinks thrashed Muhammad Ali on Feb. 15 to win the world title. The new champ has been independent to a fault: not once, but three times, he stood up the city of Philadelphia, whose mayor was waiting to present an award; he has canceled, skipped and ignored scheduled appearances. He was late for the luncheon at which The Ring magazine presented him with the world . championship belt—and he was even late for the contract-signing ceremony in New Orleans, setting up his Sept. 15 rematch with Ali. ("I always tried to be on time when I was champ," Ali said.) Spinks was sued for nonpayment of rent on his Philadelphia apartment and on March 19. the day after the WBC stripped him of half his title, he was arrested in St. Louis for driving without a license, a situation that might have gone unnoticed except that Leon happened to be driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Then came last Friday. This time, St. Louis police arrested Spinks at 4 a.m.—with a female companion. Charlean Gunn—for driving without a license ("Man, I still ain't got none") plus possession of minute amounts of marijuana and cocaine. Possession of cocaine is a felony charge that could mean up to 20 years in prison if Spinks is convicted. The trunk of the car contained several torn-up $10, $20 and $50 bills, which Spinks didn't explain and the police couldn't.
The champ was released after a few hours—two bondsmen almost came to blows over the honor of providing the $3,700 bail—promising to appear on May 5 to enter a plea. He showed up again in Miami, whence he either would or would not depart on the Caribbean tour, depending on how the spirit moved him.
In a how-do-you-react-to-all-this interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, Ali said, "It sounds like a frame-up to me," indicating that somebody wanted to get Spinks into trouble. But what was really bothering Ali should have been perfectly obvious. It wasn't Spinks' welfare, an item that has never bothered Ali before. It was the welfare of that Sept. 15 fight at the Superdome—which Ali says will be his last—and all the millions that go with it. As for the implication from Ali and several other boxing figures that somebody is trying to get Spinks into trouble, it is now clear that Leon can make his own trouble, without help from anybody.
It was a terrible time for Texas, the bald eaglet born a fortnight ago at the Central Texas Zoo in Waco. When he was two days old, he fell eight feet from his nest to the floor, saved only by the leaves and twigs on which he landed.
That near-catastrophe had Centex in a frenzy. Texas was moved into the zoo's nursery, sharing it with a baby camel and two bear cubs. Zoo officials bought an incubator, and a local deputy sheriff flew his plane 100 miles to pick up an eagle expert. Local doctors rushed over with glucose and electrolytes. Zoo employees kept around-the-clock vigil.
It was discovered that Texas had moved too close to the edge of the nest trying to get food. His parents, Ailic and Loma, were not doing the job, eating the pieces of raw quail meat intended for their offspring. Soon Texas was eating food provided by his keepers, but that presented another problem, 'if he is kept from his parents too long," said Tim Jones, the zoo's director, "he'll eventually imprint on humans and won't like eagles."
Alas, Jones wasn't able to execute a plan to reinforce Texas' eaglehood. The eaglet died at 10:55 Sunday night.