Minnesota heavyweight Scott LeDoux, who died in 2011, once fought Muhammad Ali in a five-round exhibition in Chicago. The fight was a benefit for the Chicago Children’s Institute for Development Disabilities, but LeDoux said there was more at stake than an exhibition sparring match.

LeDoux told former Star Tribune reporter Paul Levy in the just-released book “The Fighting Frenchman” that by agreeing to the exhibition Ali promised a title bout against LeDoux within six months. Ali had told a Chicago TV station that if LeDoux looked good in the exhibition, the two would fight for the title.

One problem: Ali was already signed to fight Leon Spinks after the exhibition, and in a major upset, the youthful Spinks scored a split-decision victory over Ali. It was the first time Ali had lost his title in the ring.

“When Ali lost to Leon, I lost my title shot,” LeDoux said.

LeDoux had predicted Ali would struggle against Spinks based on the five-round exhibition, which took place on Dec. 5, 1977.

“In the first round, I hit him right in the chin,” LeDoux told Levy. “That should never have happened. I would never have been able to hit Ali in his prime.”

What LeDoux got out of the exhibition was the start of a long, close relationship with Ali, according to Levy. Ali hosted LeDoux and his trainer, Papa Joe Daszkiewicz, at Ali’s California mansion, where the three often watched movies together.

“He always had fun with me,” LeDoux said “Every time he’d see me, he’d starting talking trash, then give me a hug and say, ‘I love you brother.’ ”

Of Ali’s boxing skill, LeDoux said in the book: “He’s still The Greatest, maybe the greatest who ever lived. … Guys like Ali have it every night. Guys like me have it once or twice in a career.”

Dennis Brackin