Scott LeDoux: The Fighting Frenchman and his shot at the title

A spirited challenger
(Original Caption) Minneapolis: Could it be that Heavyweight fighter Scott LeDoux (right), known as the "Fighting Frenchman", made fight promoter Don King's hair stand on end as he shows him his fist at a press conference July 5? Not really, King normally wears his hair that way, but Larry Holmes who will defend his WBC Heavyweight title against LeDoux July 7 said he will not take LeDoux lightly.

Until the lead-up to his challenge of Larry Holmes for the WBC Heavyweight Championship fight, Scott LeDoux was best known for throwing a fit on national television, one that culminated in Howard Cosell wrestling with his own toupee at ringside. After losing a horrible decision to Johnny Boudreaux, an angry LeDoux lashed out at the evil forces so familiar, even then.

Boudreaux was in the early stages of an interview with George Foreman and Cosell when Ledoux struck, unexpectedly, from the ring apron. Leaning through the ropes, “The Fighting Frenchman” swiped at Boudreaux, setting off a melee witnessed by millions of viewers across the country, and far more entertaining than the mundane fight that had just taken place. In the ensuing tussle, Cosell saw his hairpiece ripped from his dome—almost Looney Tunes style—as if he had stuck his finger in an electrical outlet. That was in 1977, during the rotten-to-the-core U.S. Championships Tournament, a Don King super con sold to ABC TV with the help of his bold backroom henchmen Paddy Flood and Al Braverman, along with a crooked assist from The Ring and its editorial quisling, Johnny (Bought) Ort. The tournament was held to showcase Don King fighters, which LeDoux was not. Boudreaux, unsurprisingly, was.

Scott LeDoux, to a lot of people, would be considered a bum, which really no professional boxer should ever be considered. The courage to enter the ring is extraordinary. LeDoux was slow, plodding, and by no means a big puncher, but he got the most out of his ability and had an accomplished career with some nice wins on his resume.

LeDoux was from Minnesota and came up at the same time Duane Bobick did, so a rivalry was a natural thing. The duo fought twice with Bobick winning both. Bobick was a talented boxer who had problems with guys with punching power, which was a LeDoux’s weakness.

In 1977 he fought Olympic gold medalist Leon Spinks to a hotly disputed draw. Spinks would go on to upset Muhammad Ali and a LeDoux fan cannot help but wonder if LeDoux gets the decision what might have been against an unmotivated Ali. Instead, LeDoux continued on and in 1979 landed a shot against veteran heavyweight Ron Lyle and once again a disputed decision would be LeDoux’s undoing. LeDoux floored Lyle in the 3rd and then followed with a right cross that put the Denver boxer into the ropes again. From then on it was a come-from-behind effort for Lyle and only one point separated the fighters on the judge’s cards at the end. Lyle was unmarked while LeDoux bled from the nose, a cut above the nose. His right eye almost closed, as well. Most observers thought LeDoux deserved the decision but as often was the case during his career, it was not to be.

Three months later LeDoux would get another big-time chance, this time against Ken Norton. After a slow start Scott controlled the end of the fight and was close to stopping Norton but when the decision was announced as a draw, once again LeDoux came within arm’s reach of signature win.

Mike Weaver came next and dominated LeDoux. It looked like it might be the end of the road for LeDoux, but the feisty Frenchman was not going to give up that easily. LeDoux was scheduled to rematch Ron Lyle, but Lyle pulled out of the fight leaving LeDoux to battle the young and up and coming Marty Monroe on national television. LeDoux won a comfortable decision and was somehow in line to fight for a major title.

The reason he got the title shot was not about deserving it, it was actually more complicated than that.

On April 16, Muhammad Ali held a press conference at the Beverly Hills Wilshire to announce that he would be bypassing the near-anonymous WBA Champion Mike Weaver and instead, challenging Larry Holmes for the WBC title. The site: Maracana Stadium in Rio De Janeiro; the date: July 7; the spoils: a potential purse of more than $8 million for the most famous athlete in history. “It sounds too good to be true,” Ali said, “but the fight is on, no question about it.” A few weeks later, after Prime Sports, Inc. (represented by Murad Muhammad, a former Ali bodyguard eventually immortalized by Don King as the “stupidest man in boxing”) failed to meet certain financial stipulations. Holmes–Ali vanished like a bit from a David Copperfield ABC special.

That left Don King scrambling for an opponent to face Holmes on prime-time television. In that sense, Lady Luck finally found her way up north, where Scott LeDoux was brooding about his permanent status as club fighter—a term he loathed. Twice LeDoux had played gatecrasher at title fights, heckling Holmes from the crowd at press conferences following his successful defenses against Alfredo Evangelista and LeRoy Jones. Although LeDoux posed no threat to Holmes, he was solid box-office in Minnesota and had built a national profile with headline fights televised on ABC and NBC. And the “Great White Hope” angle, while predictable, was irresistible to Don King, who immediately labeled LeDoux “The American Dream.” At a press conference to announce the fight, King fantasized aloud about the possibility of LeDoux upsetting Holmes. “Being that he’s white, blond, and blue-eyed, it would be tremendous,” he cooed. “It would send boxing through the roof. Even the Eskimos in their igloos would be talking in their Eskimomese about Scott LeDoux.”

Even for his long-shot chance at history, LeDoux remained grassroots. LeDoux trained in his garage, in Anoka, where a minuscule 13-foot ring took up most of the space. His sparring partners were his old friends; although, occasionally, his manager, Tom Daszkiewicz, would go a round or two in the ring, until he was exhausted by the effort. From time to time, LeDoux would headbutt the heavy bag with zest, sharpening his dirty tactics for the fight. He was a regular at a Minneapolis bar, The King of Clubs, where the patrons razzed him about his lack of defense. This folksy regimen was catnip to newspapers, who saw in it a way to link the underdog trope popularized by Rocky (Of course, the fact that Rocky Balboa trained in a teeming inner-city gym was never mentioned). LeDoux was the subject of human-interest features across America. He had been a sickly child, who would grow into a scrawny teen at the mercy of his schoolmates. “My mother says now, ‘I don’t know how you ever won any fights,’” LeDoux told the New York Times. “’You never won any when you lived here.’ I won my first fight when I was in the 11th grade. I must have been 0 and 40 by then.”

So the scene was set like it was out of a movie, Holmes-LeDoux on National television in the underdog’s hometown. Could LeDoux shock the world?

With the sound of the opening bell still echoing throughout the Met Center, it became clear that Scott LeDoux was as overmatched as the lopsided prefight odds had indicated. Where Holmes was fast, smooth, coordinated, and energetic, LeDoux was ponderous, herky-jerky, cumbersome, and listless. To keep Holmes slightly off-balance, LeDoux had adopted a more defensive style, slinking clumsily around the ring, hoping, he had said, to reach Holmes in the late rounds. He would never reach the late rounds as Holmes slowly beat the fight out of LeDoux. The fight would mercifully be stopped in the seventh round. LeDoux and the crowd were incredulous that the fight had been halted but it was going to end badly for LeDoux had it continued.

LeDoux would never get a significant win again as he would become just a stepping stone to heavyweights like Frank Bruno and Greg Page. I will make the case that maybe nobody with less talent has gotten the opportunities that LeDoux did, that’s what makes LeDoux’s story so unique. He was screwed over more than most but his perseverance eventually led him to the place he wanted to be.

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