Boxing legend Leon Spinks who won Olympic gold and defeated Muhammad Ali in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, dead at 67.
Leon’ Neon’ Spinks died after a long bout of prostate cancer, among other health problems. Spinks was one of the five people who had ever defeated Muhammad Ali in the ring; unlike the rest of Ali’s defeats, the match against Spinks was the only one in which Ali lost a belt in the ring.
Spinks came from very humble beginnings, growing up in an impoverished part of St. Louis with six siblings. Leon and his brother Michael took to boxing as children in order to protect themselves from bullies and take to it well they did. The two Spinks brothers would go on to become Olympic gold medal winners and hall of fame inductees.
Spinks, who prior to becoming a professional boxer was a proud marine, had the honor of being a part of one of the greatest Olympic boxing teams in history. The two Spinks brothers and Sugar Ray Leonard were among the five gold medal winners that competed in Montreal.
The highlight of Spinks’ boxing career came in 1978 when he faced off against Ali at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. Spinks was able to withstand fifteen rounds against Ali with enough gas left to squeeze out a split decision win against Ali.
Spinks rose to become the heavyweight champion in the course of eight fights. Spinks proclaimed following his fight, “I’m not the greatest, just the latest.” Spinks’ reign as champion was not meant to be as shortly after his victory; he was stripped of his WBC title for refusing to fight against Ken Norton. Instead, Spinks faced Ali in a rematch, after which he lost his WBA belt. Ali’s victory over Spinks would be the last win he would face before his retirement.
Spinks’ career took a downturn after his two fights against Ali, and he never again held a world title. Other than Leon and Michael Spinks, Leon’s son Cory was also an accomplished boxer who himself held belts in multiple weight classes.
“Leon started the beginning of the Spinks family’s historic boxing legacy. Michael followed up by adding more history to the family legacy,” said Kevin Cunningham, who trained Cory. “Mike won the undisputed light heavyweight championship and moved up to heavyweight and beat the undisputed heavyweight champion, Larry Holmes. Mike was the first undisputed light heavyweight champion to also win the undisputed heavyweight championship.”
“Cory won the IBF welterweight championship and won the undisputed welterweight championship.”
“The Spinks family is by far the most accomplished family in the sport of boxing. There’s no other family in the sport that has two Olympic gold medal champions and three undisputed world champions. I’m thankful and honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of boxing royalty.”