In his professional boxing debut last month at the Henry VIII hotel in Bridgeton, Mo., light heavyweight Leon Calvin won a four-round split decision over Derrick Brown. Calvin, 19, is the oldest son of Leon Spinks. Though their surnames aren't the same—and though Calvin has a gold tooth where his dad has nothing at all—young Leon is very much his father's son.
"He has a good left jab," says Calvin's trainer, Charles Hamm. "He has a pretty good right hand." His needs? "A good knockout punch," according to Hamm. "Better defense."
But like Spinks, the former heavyweight champ who fought the law as frequently as he fought pugilistic opponents, Calvin is considerably more vulnerable outside the ring. As an amateur he won two Golden Gloves titles in his hometown of St. Louis, but he missed this spring's tournament when he was arrested on gun-possession charges. He was nearly killed in 1988 after being shot in the abdomen at a party by a friend who was apparently aiming at someone else. Says Hamm, a plumber who first started training Calvin when the fighter was nine, "He needs to keep coming to the gym and stop getting into trouble on the streets."
Calvin also needs to be tamed in the ring. "We've got to slow him down," says comanager Jim Howell. "Right from the start, he tries to tear your head off." Calvin's father, of course, was not one to fight with finesse either.
Leon Spinks and Zadie Calvin, who never married, have three children. Darrell, 17, is said to be the best boxing prospect, though Corey, 12, has also begun fighting amateur bouts. The boys' father has spent the last several years in Detroit and Chicago, working as a bouncer-greeter in local bars. More recently Spinks has been officiating professional wrestling matches and preparing for a September bout with a South Korean kick-boxer.
Spinks hasn't seen his oldest son fight in several years. Calvin's uncle, former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, manages some St. Louis fighters, but his nephew isn't one of them. Still, Calvin, the father of two himself, feels blessed by his bloodline. "My father was a champ, and so was my uncle," he says. "I am a Spinks son. If my father can do it, so can I."
Calvin's handlers, however, know that the same pedigree may be their fighter's biggest negative. Says Howell, "He has his dad's same carefree attitude."