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"You couldn't believe the scene in there," Benton said later. "There's at least 30 outsiders hanging around getting in everybody's way. Then Sam tells me how every fourth round I might get to talk to Leon. I mean, I'm no freaking yo-yo. What am I supposed to do? Go in and say, 'Remember four rounds ago when I said to....' Then he tells me how we can relay instructions. Now it's rule by committee. It was amateur hour and amateurs were running the show."
Benton had not wanted to be there at all. The first fight had been quite enough. But in July he had received a letter inviting him to New Orleans as a special guest. The letter was from Mitt Barnes, Spinks' manager in absentia. Benton had not replied and had decided not to go. He knew Solomon didn't want him there.
But then, two weeks before the fight, as Spinks' training sessions grew less and less productive, Michael Spinks and Butch Lewis, a Top Rank vice-president who at one time was in charge of Spinks' career, had convinced Leon that he needed former middleweight contender Benton in his corner. After four phone calls Lewis finally persuaded Benton to come. He arrived nine days before the fight.
"When I got there I saw Leon was doing all the wrong things," Benton said. "He'd forgotten all the things I had him doing for the last fight. The boy could be a hell of a fighter but he needs a teacher, and I can only do so much for him in a week or two. He'd lost his jab. He wasn't bobbing and weaving. I told him, 'Leon, it's about time you got to work.' "
Benton went to work, but there was little he could do about what was going on inside Spinks' head. The young man has a deep love for his family and a great loyalty to old friends. He tries desperately to make them all happy, and when squabbles began during the weeks before the fight Spinks was deeply disturbed.
Seven days before the fight, there was a shouting match with Michael. Later Michael said, "I laid something on him I couldn't get off my mind. I told him that I had to chase him to New Orleans, that he was trying to run away from the family and that he owed them more than that." After the argument Leon went out to train. As he began jumping rope, tears began to stream down his cheeks.
That night, as he had for many of the previous nights, and as he did for the rest of the nights leading up to the fight, Spinks fled alone to the many small and dangerous bars deep inside the New Orleans ghetto. There he tried to drink away the pain.
"He was drunk every night he was here," said Bob Arum, the Top Rank president. "Leon went to places our people didn't dare go. I'm surprised he didn't wind up with a knife in him."
At one point Spinks moved out of the fight headquarters at the Hilton Hotel and disappeared. No one, not even Solomon, knew where he had gone. "He had left the hotel and moved into a house and didn't tell anybody where it was," Butch Lewis said. "Nobody knew how to reach him. We almost went crazy. Finally we had to get a policeman to beat on a policeman who was part of Leon's security guard to find out where he was."
While Spinks trained and drank his way through the disharmony, Ali was maintaining his strenuous training pace. He rented a yellow brick home near Lake Pontchartrain, north of town, and there he ran each morning and there he suffered on the green rubbing table set up in the living room.