A few years ago, Scott LeDoux began having difficulty buttoning his shirts.
"I thought it was arthritis," the former heavyweight boxer said.
It wasn’t arthritis, though. It was the beginning of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig’s disease.
"Now, it’s going to my legs and my stomach," LeDoux said. "Now, it’s a real issue."
LeDoux, who lives in Coon Rapids, celebrated his 60th birthday this month. For 42 of those years, he boxed. Nobody was tougher, more game. During his career, he was in the ring with 11 former, current and future heavyweight champions of the world, including an exhibition match with Muhammad Ali. LeDoux compiled a 33-13-4 professional record.
LeDoux fought George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Ken Norton and Leon Spinks. He sparred with Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
"Foreman crushed me in the third round, knocked me down, got me with a right hand on my cheek, opened it up for 12 stitches," LeDoux said of the 1976 fight in Utica, N.Y. "When I got up, there was blood all over the place. That was a real fight."
Now LeDoux has ALS. It was diagnosed last August. He kept quiet about it, but close pals knew.
"I’m living with ALS; I’m not going to die from ALS," LeDoux said the other day. "I’m going to fight it till the end."
Wally Hilgenberg, a former Vikings linebacker, died last September at age 66 after fighting ALS.
"Wally’s wife got me in to see the head of
the ALS department at the University of Minnesota," LeDoux said. "Many former football players have it."
Does LeDoux think boxing contributed?
"Yes," he said. "It has a lot to do with head trauma and stuff like that."
Before Hilgenberg died, he gave LeDoux his walker for assistance.
"I use it around the house," he said.
LeDoux said he has no prognosis for his disease.
"They don’t know how it works," he said. "It varies in speed. I think I’m on a slower pace."
Meanwhile, he remains an Anoka County commissioner and head of the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission.
Plans are under way for Foreman to be a roaster at a LeDoux fundraiser in the Twin Cities this spring to benefit "Wishes and More."
For 16 years in the spring, LeDoux has played catcher in a charity baseball game featuring former major league stars in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has caught hall of famers Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins.
LeDoux plans to participate in the game this spring.
"But just as a base coach this time," he said. "I can’t squat anymore. This is pretty disheartening for me."
LeDoux managed a laugh.
"Maybe, though, I can take a bucket out there and sit on it and catch," he said.
Then he mentioned the reality.
"I’m living with this and there’s no cure, no treatment," he said.