The Fighting Frenchman's Biggest Battle

by Bill Norman on Sat, 2010-05-01 14:25
During his career in the ring, LeDoux fought the biggest names in boxing. He's shown here in a heavyweight fight with George Foreman.

Scott LeDoux said he got out of professional boxing at age 34 because he was accruing “too many frequent flier miles.”

Translated from the “Fighting Frenchman’s” wry humor, that means he was getting lifted airborne by his opponents’ uppercuts with unacceptable regularity.

Twice a contender for the world heavyweight championship title, LeDoux stepped into the ring with some of the biggest names in boxing, including George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and Duane Bobick. For money and publicity, he sparred with Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.

Toughest opponent yet

LeDoux, early in his career.

Today at 61, LeDoux faces a tougher opponent — ALS. He learned he has the disease about two years ago. “I’m fightin’ the fight. It’s the real heavyweight championship bout,” he said.

His biggest yearning is that he be granted maximum time with his three grandsons, ages 5, 2 and 10 months. An image of the big pugilist (6’2”, 250 pounds) playing gently with tykes might seem incongruous to those who ever had the chance to watch him box.

Dan Cuoco, director of the International Boxing Research Organization, said he didn’t know until very recently that LeDoux had ALS.  “Scott was one of the most likable boxers to come along in a sport that shoots itself in the foot more often than not,” Cuoco said. “He was an excellent analyst on ESPN. I always enjoyed his commentary, for both his knowledge and honesty.”

Although his strength is failing, LeDoux’s mind freely skips through the years to some of his toughest fights — tough not necessarily because of his opponents, but because of the shady dealings that for decades have tarnished professional boxing.

For example, when LeDoux fought major contender Gerrie Coetzee in South Africa, officials confiscated his trainer’s ringside medicine kit that included a blood-clotting agent. When Coetzee opened up a cut above LeDoux’s eye, the bleeding couldn’t be stopped, and the match was awarded to Coetzee on a technical knockout.

When LeDoux was 42, “the press was running stories that said Mike Tyson was really beating up his sparring partners,” he recalled. LeDoux agreed to spar with “Iron Mike” and, though he suffered a cut that later required eight stitches, he continued to punch. The next day he discovered that the padding had been removed from Tyson’s gloves, and thus LeDoux’s impression he was being “hit with cinder blocks.”

LeDoux once was accused of knocking off Howard Cosell’s toupee when the legendary sportscaster covered a fight between him and Johnny Boudreaux (who, LeDoux said, he had “beaten up bad”). The bout had been fixed, he said, by a notorious fight promoter. When the decision was announced, he had a strong exchange of words with the other fighter, who by that time was out of the ring and down in the audience. “I tried to kick him in the head, and when he fell back, he knocked off [Cosell’s] hairpiece,” LeDoux explained.

Staying active in sports

Even though he retired from being a “frequent flier” in the boxing ring, the Fighting Frenchman from Minnesota (his great-grandfather emigrated from France) stayed in the fight scene. He was a ringside commentator for ESPN, then a referee for American Wrestling Association bouts, and then, as a wrestler himself, he competed in 200 matches that he acknowledged were mostly theatrics.

LeDoux continues his involvement with sports today, although he plans to taper off his work hours. He heads the Minnesota State Boxing Commission and is executive director of the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission. He also is involved with promoting a host of charitable events.

Kindness a family trait

A recent portrait of LeDoux with his wife, Carol.

When he was a boy, LeDoux’s family owned 25 acres in Crosby, Minn., on which they raised dairy cows and pigs. His dad also drove a big ore truck in an open pit iron mine.  Despite their own farm’s work demands, his parents regularly sent him over to help on the neighbor’s farm, seeking no compensation. Memories of his parents’ kindness never left him, nor did his desire to emulate them.

When his first wife contracted cancer, LeDoux served as her caregiver for nearly 10 years until her death.

Today his second wife, Carol, is in the caregiver’s role. He fully recognizes it’s an exhausting responsibility, and he’s also aware that ALS can be a financially exhausting illness.

On March 13, friends of the LeDoux family held a fundraiser in St. Paul to help them out — The Main Event: The Fight for Scott LeDoux. More than 500 people showed up, many of them Scott’s old sports buddies.

“What’s happened to Scott almost makes you cry,” one of his friends said. “But Scott won’t let you.”

Bill Norman
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