As an Anoka County commissioner and state boxing commissioner, Scott LeDoux pulls no punches. Friends say his heart may be bigger than his boxing reputation.
During a recent speech, Scott LeDoux asked if anyone in his audience had ever boxed. Three people raised their hands. LeDoux, a former heavyweight contender who fought Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and nine other world champions, responded, "I'll speak slowly for the rest of you."
Occasionally, the Anoka County commissioner looked toward the ceiling, tilting his head left, then right, as if gazing at imaginary birds circling above.
"It's what people expect of a fighter who maybe took too many blows to the head," LeDoux said later.
With LeDoux, expect the unexpected. But forget the stereotypes.
LeDoux has gone toe to toe with boxing's legends, stood up this year to a reprimand by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and has been criticized for occasionally forgetting to harness his ego. He says he can be "too blatantly rude" and "too blatantly honest" to be a politician, but LeDoux, a political independent, is among the county's most influential commissioners.
"Don't underestimate him," longtime county board member Dan Erhart said recently. "He's a leader. He knows how to work with people. And he can open a lot of doors that others can't."
Sure, LeDoux, 58, likes to tell listeners that he was his freshman class president three straight years. But don't be fooled, warns his friend Bob Dolan, a Minneapolis attorney. LeDoux -- who lost his lone heavyweight title bout to Larry Holmes, in 1980, at the old Met Center in Bloomington -- has tremendous recall and a cutting wit, marvels Dolan.
According to Dolan: After LeDoux, then 34, lost his final professional fight, in 1983 to Frank Bruno, 21, in London, journalists asked LeDoux if he thought that, in his prime, he could have beaten Bruno. LeDoux responded, "When I started out, I would never have fought Bruno. I would have killed him." When the British journalists accused LeDoux of being arrogant, he told them, "When I started out, Mr. Bruno was probably 3 years old."
Dolan would like to knock out one other misconception concerning his buddy: The big farm kid from Crosby, Minn., who once knocked off Howard Cosell's toupee during an interview, has been a tireless speaker for charitable causes.
"That's really his legacy," Dolan said.
When it comes to charitable work, LeDoux may be just reaching his prime. He often speaks to groups hours before his morning arrival at the Anoka County government center. He says he made more than 100 charitable appearances last year while juggling his roles as Minnesota's boxing commissioner, county commissioner, Realtor, father and husband.
It is the latter role that he takes least for granted. A tough guy? LeDoux's eyes moisten when he says, "I wish I was as strong as my first wife, Sandy." Then he quickly adds, "I've buried two wives."
A need to give back
To fathom why LeDoux decided three years ago to run for county commissioner, you have to understand how a man who has taken so many beatings in and out of the ring can say, "God has given me so much, and I need to give back."
Carol LeDoux, who has been married to Scott for 11 years, never met either of LeDoux's earlier wives. But she knows that their very different tragic lives and deaths helped her husband learn to cherish every waking moment and respond to others' needs -- no matter how many times LeDoux gets knocked against the ropes.
Sandy LeDoux met Scott at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he played football. They wed in 1969, but she spent the final decade of their marriage battling cancer. When she died in 1989, her husband said that if he'd had her courage and heart, he would have been heavyweight champion.
LeDoux's second wife, Dolly, died from alcoholism in 1997 after they had been divorced.
"He feels very keenly for people who have gone through anything like he's gone through," said Carol LeDoux. "He knows what it's like to feel powerless."