HAYMAKERS DIDN'T BLINDSIDE SPINKS (New York Daily News, Thursday, Aug. 6, 1998) By Mark Kriegel Ten years later, as Mike Tyson and his apologists plot yet another return from ignominy, Michael Spinks has little to say about the man who took him out in 91 seconds. He knows Tyson has re-applied for a New Jersey boxing license. He understands the debate will be framed amid a mind-numbing repetition of video clips showing Tyson biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear. "I always knew that was there in Tyson," Spinks says. "I knew he was a bully. It was just a matter of time before that showed." Beyond that, though, Spinks, now 42, has little inclination to moralize or prognosticate. It's enough for him to know he escaped the ignominy himself. He has his wits and his money. Spinks stayed retired, making him almost alone in the recent history of heavyweight champions. Look at them, the farce of their fates, their heavyweight talent for ruination: for booze and brain damage, drugs and domestic violence, for car wrecks, incarceration, financial desperation, and of course, for that inevitable humiliation, The Comeback. Those famous 91 seconds gave birth to the notion of Tyson as the planet's Baddest Man. But a decade later, Tyson is an elaborately complicated failure, an ear-biter and convicted rapist suing his promoter for fraud. Even The Greatest, Muhammad Ali -- who, let it be known, counseled Spinks for his bout with the bully - was not spared. His mind may still yield miracles. But ask a fighter, and he'll say Parkinson's syndrome is a fancy way of saying the guy stayed too long. Spinks knows all this, knows it in his blood. His older brother, Leon -- one of four men to beat Ali -- ended up abusing more substances than opponents. A couple of years ago, Leon's address was an East St. Louis homeless shelter. When he worked, it was as a $4.75 temp in a local labor pool. Spinks loved being a fighter, but he never trusted the fight game. And of all his fighter's instincts, that one served him best. He has seven bedrooms, not including the guest house, on a secluded five-acre spread outside Wilmington, Del. His teen-age daughter, Michelle, also lives there when she's not away at boarding school. It's a good life, a quiet one, and about as far as he could get from the Pruitt-Igoe Projects back in St. Louis. History-making career Spinks made $13.5 million fighting Tyson, bringing his final tally to $25 million for a career that made history. He was the first light-heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight belt. Back in the '80s, his promoter, Butch Lewis, thought to put him in those high interest zero-coupon bonds. Spinks lives off the interest, more than a couple of hundred grand a year, and more than he needs. He doesn't need a fleet of cars. Doesn't owe the IRS. Doesn't need to make a comeback. "Don't want to come back like Swole," he says. Swole wasn't a fighter. He just ended up like one, walking around in his own private palookaville. "I was just a little kid back in St. Louis, hanging around the gym," Spinks says. "Seven o'clock, guys start hitting on the bags, sound like drums, like drum noise was coming off their gloves. "And here comes Swole, walking up Cass Avenue. I didn't know his name. I just call him Swole 'cause he have this big old swollen head. His whole body was swollen, really, like, from drinking. Swole come up the street, smelling like alcohol, walking by the dope fiends, talking to himself, cursing. "So I ask this one guy, I say, `Why Swole like that?' He says, `Back in the day, that man was one of the sharpest brothers on the avenue. Then what happened was, his girl done left him for his best friend and he been like that since.' " That Spinks considers the fables of failed heavyweights as versions of Swole may be explained as an accident of association. Then again, maybe not. The fight game is as cruel a mistress as Swole ever had. "I felt proud to be a boxer," Spinks says. "But I knew boxers were supposed to be dumb. I knew how a lot of guys ended up with no money, and I didn't think I'd be dealt with fairly. "Plus, I was already happy. I had my mom -- and best friend -- Kay Francis Spinks. I had my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. And I had a job, potwasher at the Holiday Inn, made $100 every two weeks. They promoted me from dishwasher to potwasher. I didn't need to be a pro. Only thing I ever wanted out of boxing was making the Olympic team." In 1976, Michael and Leon Spinks went to Montreal as the middleweight and light-heavyweight designees of the best boxing team the United States ever sent to the Olympics. They won gold medals, but not before they met a sharp judge of talent named Butch Lewis. "Most of the guys sitting around the coffee shop scouting the Olympics had Michael as the dude least likely to succeed," Lewis says. "They said he's clumsy. They said he's lucky. "But I'm saying to myself, `If he's so lucky, then how come he's always beating the favorite? When I seen him buckle that Russian, I knew. That wasn't no luck. But he don't want to turn pro. And I mean, I'm hitting Mike with everything just to get him to sign with me. I'm telling him this, telling him that. I'm telling him, `Boy, you going to miss out on what you been blessed to do.' " But after the Olympics, Michael Spinks felt blessed to have a $250-a-week job at Monsanto. "I didn't want to take a chance and get me imprisoned to a pro contract," he says. "I just wanted to come back to St. Louis, get a good job and take care of my mom." The Monsanto plant smelled like rotten eggs. The gold medalist worked a graveyard shift, cleaning ashtrays, cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors. "I didn't feel too bad about it," he says. "Hey, it wasn't like I had chemical engineering skills." The days turn to months. Lewis keeps calling. But Michael Spinks pays him no mind. Then one night, Spinks commits the great offense of falling asleep on the sofa in the women's bathroom. "I admit it," he says, "I was wrong. But the supervisor comes in there yelling, `Who the hell you think you are?' cursing me out, calling me a bunch of bad names. Finally, I figured I might as well just turn pro. I was probably dying sucking in those chemicals anyway." So he signed with Lewis, as Leon already had. "After I turned pro, I saw me and Leon being the baddest brothers ever to put on the gloves," Michael says. "We were going to do everything together." Leon, of course had other ideas. After Lewis got him that first fight with Ali, Leon returned the favor by signing with a couple of lawyers out of Detroit. He even moved to Detroit. Leon Spinks didn't know it, but he was already well on the way to nowhere, drifting and drinking, drugs and debt. By 1981, Leon had become just another body for Larry Holmes to beat on. "I didn't like how Holmes tried to hurt my brother," Michael says. "He did the same thing with Ali. Ali would say how he's retiring after every fight, but he never would." None of these lessons was lost on Spinks, then still beginning a brilliant career. Yes, Spinks was awkward, but such awkwardness enabled him to deliver punches from almost any angle, the best of which was a right hand called "the Spinks jinx." "I always moved my head," he says. "And I was never afraid to pack up and run." In 1981, Michael won a 15-round decision against Eddie Mustafa Muhammad for the WBA light-heavyweight belt. Two years later - just a few months after his wife, Sandy, had died in an automobile accident - he beat Dwight Braxton, the WBC champ. And in 1985, in violation of every oddsmaker's scenario, he beat Larry Holmes, who was 22 pounds bigger, 48 wins without a defeat, the heavyweight champ. Michael Spinks had done what Billy Conn, Archie Moore and Bob Foster could not. "Most fun I ever had in the ring," he says. "That night was all my way." Spinks won the rematch. Then he knocked out Gerry Cooney. Soon, the fight everyone wanted to see, the biggest bout in the world, was Spinks-Tyson. It took awhile to make, but unlike his night with Holmes, this one wasn't ever going Spinks' way, even if Ali had picked him, whispering in Spinks ear that he could beat the bully. "He'd given me some pointers for Larry Holmes, and then for Tyson," Spinks says. "I guess I let him down." Of the 21,785 on hand at the Atlantic City Convention Center on June 27, 1988, Spinks must have been the only one who didn't work up a sweat. He came in dry as a bone. And he didn't even try to run. "Guess I fought a pretty dumb fight," he says. "Trying to slug with a slugger." Those 91 seconds ended with Tyson's right hand. "The way Slim hit the ropes, the way his head snapped, I didn't want to see him try to get up," Lewis says. "Tyson was at his best that night. No one has ever seen that Tyson again." "I heard on the street, how I threw the fight," Spinks says. "But I came to fight like I always came to fight. Just wish I made a better showing of myself." A month later, Spinks announced his retirement. "I can't thank you and kiss you enough for all the wonderful things . . . " He broke down, weeping. "I only started crying because Butch was crying," he says. And maybe, because Leon wasn't there. "I don't know if we could find Leon then," he says. "I wasn't keeping up with him. Leon meant a lot to me. I wanted us to do it all together. But, well, it hurts to see your own brother go through things like that. When I see Leon, I see a wounded person. I see this pain." Leon, of course, was still fighting. That's easy, though, to keep fighting. It's much more difficult to keep retired. "It's tough on anyone, leaving the ring," Spinks says. But toughest on an erstwhile champ. "The money, the power, that bright light around you, once you've been champ of the world, that's tough to give up," Lewis says. "That bright light is a Jones, my man, and you start living to satisfy that Jones. It's an addiction like no other." There's always another payday. Another belt. Another fight. And that's usually the fight that gets you hurt or humiliated. "I could've gotten Slim five or six million to fight Holyfield," Lewis says. "But it wasn't the right thing. He didn't need it." Michael Spinks didn't need that bright light. He's been tempted, sure. He works out at Joe Frazier's gym on Broad Street in Philly. He talks about sparring, but never does. "Keep forgetting to get a mouthpiece," he says. Instead, he shadowboxes. He wraps his hands, and bangs the big bag for 12 rounds, making the drum noise. Then he heads home. He gets there before his daughter Michelle arrives with her friends to swim in the pool. There's five acres. That's a lot for a kid from Pruitt-Igoe: five acres and not a Swole in sight. REMEMBERING A MAN NAMED MOORE (The Sporting News, December, 1998) By Dave Kindred Archie Moore, an American original, died last week. By his mother's count, he was 84 years old. He'd prefer 81. "My mother should know, she was there,'' he once said. "But so was I. I have given this a lot of thought and have decided that I must have been 3 when I was born.'' Writing about boxing is dirty work. Yet I write about Archie Moore, whose fame is built on boxing. For 27 years, from 1936-63, he busted heads. For 11 years as the light-heavyweight champion, he was the only man who fought both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. He knocked out more men than any other pro fighter: 129. He won 183-of-215 fights. No deal with the devil is necessary to write about Archie Moore because anyone writing about the great man writes a celebration of life. To feel Moore's benevolent presence, to see the almond eyes and wispy jazz-man's goatee, to hear the moving river of his voice was to know he lived in answer to a question he asked: "Wouldn't it be awful if a man had to go through a day -- even one day -- without a little music and laughter?'' Smart things he said simply: Worrying's a disease. Fat's a three-letter word invented to confuse people. Gotta shoot some pool because life's not all fightin'. Gave money to the Freedom Riders, the B'nai B'rith and the United Fund because white people, black people, God made us all. I'm no glutton, I'm an explorer of food! One afternoon he talked about Muhammad Ali. He had known Ali in 1960 as Cassius Clay. ``That child came to the mountain to seek the wisdom of The Mongoose,'' Moore said. In the old man's fighting days, agile, fearless and relentless, he called himself The Mongoose. "But when I told him he had to wash dishes to earn his way, Cassius declared, `Ain't washin' no dishes, no heavyweight champ ever got dishpan hands.' '' There came from Archie Moore a waterfall's roar of laughter. "Don't let anybody tell you different, even without the enormous benefit of my instruction, Muhammad Ali was the greatest. He could have whupped Joe Louis four times in five.'' Odd to say about a man paid to inflict brain damage, but Archie Moore had something dainty about him. It was there in an elegance that survived despite wardrobe choices that moved San Diego sportswriter Jack Murphy to write of the hometown hero: "His taste in wearing apparel is something less than severe -- he usually goes into the ring draped in a gold or silver silk dressing gown festooned with sequins, and he has been photographed at Epsom Downs in England wearing a gray topper, striped pants, and a cutaway, and on Fifth Avenue strolling along, cane in hand, in a white dinner jacket and Bermuda shorts -- but his natural poise and his almost regal bearing enable him to carry off such trappings with dignity.'' Perhaps such a show of overcompensation was to be expected from a brilliant if uneducated man who was raised in a St. Louis slum and spent two years in a reformatory for stealing coins from a streetcar motorman. Out of the slammer at 15, uninterested in school, knowing the limits of police work for a black of his day, understanding that Major League Baseball was whites-only and the Negro leagues paid players a pittance -- why not be like his hero, the fighter Kid Chocolate? "I suppose I liked him because his name sounded so sweet,'' Moore said. ``Most of all, the money intrigued me.'' Kid Chocolate had made $2,500 for one fight. "Do you know how much money it was for a family that depended on the government for a basket of food each week -- for a family that waited for a government check each month to pay the rent? It was fabulous. It was my way out.'' He trained by walking stairs on his hands. To perfect his jab, he stood in front of a mirror, hefted his aunt's five-pound flatirons and threw punches for 12 minutes with a 10-second break in the middle. The result: "I had the best jab in the business, Joe Louis notwithstanding.'' Fighting maybe a dozen times a year, Moore won the light-heavyweight championship in 1952 at the age of 35 (or 38). He fought Marciano for the heavyweight title in 1955 at Yankee Stadium -- and knocked the champion down in the second round. Decades later, Moore insisted he should have won. "In Yankee Stadium, before 60,000 people, the referee forgot there was no mandatory eight count after I knocked Marciano down,'' Moore said. "He yanked Marciano by the hands and yanked him out of his stupor.'' Without such assistance, Marciano might have been helpless against Moore's next assault. Instead, he survived and in the ninth round knocked out the old challenger. Marciano then retired, undefeated. At age 49 (or 52), needing money, Moore lost by a fourth-round knockout to the child who'd fled his mountain, Cassius Clay. He would fight only once more, beating a Mike DiBiase. "One of these days,'' Moore told Murphy, ``the law of averages, or maybe the law of gravity, will catch up with me. I can't last forever. I've been thinking about how I want to go. I want to be respected. When I'm finished, I want people to say only one thing of me. I want them to say, `There goes a man.' ''