Leon Spinks, who scored one of boxing’s greatest upsets When he defeated Muhammad Ali He was 67 in Henderson, Nev., On Friday night, to capture the Heavyweight Championship in February 1978, but lost his crown in a rematch seven months later and never again glorified in the ring.
He died in a statement released by the family’s public relations representatives, in a hospital, by his wife, Brenda Glur Spinks. His family announced in December 2019 that he was hospitalized for treatment of prostate cancer that had spread to his bladder.
Spinks burst when he won the Olympic light-heavyweight gold medal and His brother michael Took gold in the middleweight division at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Before he faced Ali at the Las Vegas Hilton on February 15, 1978, in a boxing hosted by Bob Arum, one of the major promoters of boxing, Leon battled professionally only seven times, with six wins and one draw.
Ali Held the titles of World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council. But at the age of 36, a mass betting favorite, he had his dominant past. He weighed 224 pounds in the Spinks 197.
Spinks was a hard-charging brawler, but when he pressured Ali into the ring, the champion resorted to his rope-a-dope strategy, aiming to exempt himself from punches to an opponent who rarely did damage. Delivers while Ali rested on the ropes.
Spinks Corner had its own strategy aimed at weakening Ali.
“Jab, jab, jab, that was the plan,” Spinks’ trainer, George Benton, said later in the dressing room. “Hit him with that shoulder on the left shoulder all night.”
Ali rallied in the 15th round, but was stopped by Spinks and won the decision to split.
At the end of the fight, Ali had purple knuckles above and below his right eye. His forehead was swollen near his left eye and blood dripped from his lower lip.
Ali said, “He had the will and stamina to win.” “He hit very hard.”
A few days after the fight, Spinks appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, becoming a familiar gaptoothed smile.
The World Boxing Council snatched the Spinks of its heavyweight title for refusing to defend against Ken Norton, his designated challenger and crowned Norton.
Ali had envisioned a rematch with Spinks and promised to “keep moin”, don’t get on the ropes, stay in better shape. “The strategy worked.
In September 1978, Ali regained his WBA title by beating Spinks in a unanimous decision at the Louisiana Superdome before a crowd of 63,000. This time when he accused him, he tied up Spinks, and he danced and swung like Ali of old.
By 1981, Larry Holmes crowned the World Boxing Council a heavyweight. Spinks challenged him to lose in a technical knockout of June, the third round. He faced WBA Cruiserweight Champion Dwight Muhammad Qavi in 1986, losing in the ninth round technical knockout.
By then his career was mostly in decline, and he had gained a reputation for partying in the midst of his training.
Before the Battle of Holmes, Sam Solomon, who was an instructor for Spinks early in his pro career, recalled the weeks in the Catskills when Spinks was getting ready for his first Ali fight.
“He would go to bed at night and loudly turn on his music box and lock his door,” Solomon told The New York Times. “The only way I could find him was to explore his tracks in the snow.” At that time, as Ali would soon learn, the exodus did not harm his opportunities.
Spinks’ last fight was in December 1995, when he lost a unanimous decision to Fred Hupe in an eight-round bout. Spinks was 42; Hupe was 45 years old and had not fought since November 1978.
Retired with 26 wins (14 from knockout), 17 defeats and three draws.
Leon Spinks Jr. was born in St. Louis on July 11, 1953, the eldest of seven children of Leon and Kaye Spinks, who separated when they were a child. The family was poor and the neighborhood was tough. He tells of receiving severe beating from his father.
Leon, a frenzied youngster suffering from lower blood pressure and asthma, became the target of bullies.
At the age of 13, he began boxing in a St. Louis gym program designed to keep youth on the streets. He dropped out of high school in his junior year, joined the Marines, participated in his boxing program and concluded as an amateur in matches leading up to the Montreal Games.
Spinks’ life after retiring from the ring was quite volatile. He said that he lost the money he had earned, and that he traveled across the country for all he could find. At the age of 52, he moved to Columbus, Ind. , Where he worked as a YMCA mentor and unloaded McDonald’s trucks.
Spinks gave birth to three sons with a girlfriend, JD May Calvin, who grew up in his neighborhood.
One son, Corey, became a welterweight champion, and another, Darrell, had 19 pro fights. His son Leon Calvin, who used his mother’s surname, won two pro bono matches before 19 was shot and killed while running into a car from a party in St. Louis that turned violent. Leon Calvin’s son, Leon Spinks III, fought in 16 supporting bouts.
In addition to his wife, his sons Corey and Darrell, his grandchildren and his brother Michael, Spinks is survived by seven other siblings: Karen (Spinks) Shanklin, Leyland Spinks, Evan Macdonald, Eddie Brooks, Charles Spinks, Lionel Spinks and Patricia Spinks.
At night, he traced Ali, Spinks said, drawing attention to the adversity of his childhood to summon perseverance.
“My dad walked around and told people that I would never do anything,” Sports Illustrated quoted him as saying. “It hurt me. I never forgot it. I made up my mind that I was going to be somebody in this world. Whatever the price I had to pay, I was going to succeed.”
Gillian R. Brasil contributed reporting.