THEY CALLED HIM A SHOW-OFF, a bum fighter, a no-hoper. A hater ... of some opponents. Nippy and mean.. They didn't serve him cream-cakes, just tough cookies.
Yair, that's Leo the Lion. Bit of the German origins: lisps that little bit.
Right about the show-off bit. Comes down the aisle arms waving in the air, transistor plugs in ears, dancing like a fairy. In the ring before the fight, dances to the centre, soft-shoe shuffling, holding his little radio, begs the crowd's approval
Cried when he won the Light Belt.
Good at the soft-shoe - did it once in shiny black wooden clogs, right in the doorway to a restaurant 'Easy Baby, easy, look at this.' Inside: 'Do they do a chocolate malted milk-shake in this place?' when everyone's drinking coffee.
A dresser too. Like a peacock, to get noticed, hip-hugging flares, plum-coloured, white lacing up the sides; multi-striped jumper in red and yellow and orange. Bleached hair ('Can you tell?'); did it himself, bought the stuff from a chemist. Cut like a cap.
'Fire away Baby. Ask me anything. I'm ready.' Said to interviewer, who sees him crack his fingers and double back his hands. Big red stone glints in knuckle-duster on little finger Like a ruby. Not a ruby.
'Say, you're double-jointed.' Performs deftly turning his hands inside out. Weird.
Champion, lightweight division, but is it up or down? Chocolate malteds? 'I live on chocolate malteds. Man, do I love 'em.'
Dogged by weight. Dog chasing. Skinny once, could see shape of his nose, flat forehead. Now nose same width from flattened nostrils to between the eyes; forehead plumped out like a verandah with blows. Gashes over eyes, many bleeds many mends. Lumpy plumpy face now, boxer face.
Weight shoves up to beefier opponents. Light-welter. Stubborn. 'True lightweight Baby. Blue Division. That's me.'
Tried weight-reducing pills. Too many, too often. Ripped off twelve pounds in a week. Lost two pounds in a Turkish Bath , Luv.
Fried chicken and apple turnover, chocolate thick shakes. 'Can't resist them Baby. Take the pills tomorrow.'
'Fit.' Lifts jumper, rips a right to bared muscles.
.Flicks pages of Fighter Magazine. 'Hey, did you see this. See this.' Face alight. Reads: "Leo lost no friends in defeat ... in fact from being a villain, he is turning into boxing's best-loved loser.'
He looks up with a split-face grin. 'I couldn't believe it when they cheered.'
Jeered for winning. Cheered for losing? Crowd hissed him; couldn't love him, didn't like his comedy. Mean and tough comedian, prances like a ballet dancer, drops his gloves, does a shuffle, juts out mouthguard like a cheeky urchin, taunting.
Won Most Entertaining Fighter of Year. Moved, cried, couldn't talk.
After restaurant interview, he collects his scrap book, precious gold of retired actor. He clump, clump, clumps down our office stairs, humming.
Ask secretary: 'What did you think of him?'
'He's really quite a nice chap you know. There's something likeable about him.'
The full bit, Baby.