Calvin Fussman, whose profile of WBA light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks begins on page 34, has been around boxing since he was, at age 16, a 106-pound Golden Glover in New York, where he had what he frankly describes as a "rather unremarkable" ring career. However, everything else about Fussman, now 26, is, or has been, otherwise, including his head, which he has kept shaved since last year. Why? "Because I'd always wanted to know what my skull looked like," he says airily. "In airports people think I'm a member of the Hare Krishnas, or they call me Gandhi."
Fussman, who was born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, graduated in 1978 from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, where he gave the commencement address. His first job out of school was a one-year hitch as a sportswriter for The Miami Herald's Palm Beach bureau. SI Reporter Bruce Anderson, who succeeded Fussman at the Herald, says, "When I arrived, the stories about Cal were already of mythical proportion. One had him routinely hauling his typewriter out onto the lawn to get the creative juices going. Or he'd take his clothes off, piece by piece, until the story really started to flow." In another enduring tale, the Herald's state editor arrives unexpectedly at the bureau at 3 a.m. and encounters Fussman face down in a doorway, sleeping off an evening's entertainment at Roxy's, a popular local hangout. "When he tripped over me, I remember yelling, 'Can't a guy get a decent night's sleep around here?' " Fussman says. The editor fled, returning the next morning to find Fussman nattily dressed in a three-piece suit, pecking away at a story.
After a year in St. Louis, where he's best remembered for his Cardinal stories in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and shadowboxing in the newspaper parking lot at 4 a.m., Fussman became a contributing editor at now-defunct Inside Sports. For two years he lived at the Times Square Motor Hotel in Manhattan, in an area famed for hustlers of every stripe. "I was stockpiling experiences for a career as a fiction writer," he explains.
In the meantime he was dealing ably with fact. An Inside Sports piece on the relationship between New Orleans Saints Linebacker Rickey Jackson and his boyhood friend Remuise Johnson was included in Best Sports Stories 1982. More recently, he has written a sports-injury piece for Esquire and one based on a ride down the Mississippi River on a towboat, which appeared in Louisiana Life magazine.
"I just do whatever comes naturally," says Fussman, who nowadays lives in Miami, where he visits Bart's Barber Shop twice a week. Fussman hasn't put a razor to his own skin since 1981, and when he gets a shave at Bart's, it's all the way up and over.
"I like it," he says of his smooth pate, "and you know what? My mother likes it, too. And I figure that when your mother likes something, you're in pretty good shape."
FORMER FIGHTER FUSSMAN: WRITER WITH PUNCH