Leon Spinks (July 11, 1953 – February 5, 2021) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1977 to 1995. In only his eighth professional fight, he won the undisputed heavyweight championship in 1978 after defeating Muhammad Ali in a split decision, in what is considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Spinks was later stripped of the WBC title for facing Ali in an unapproved rematch seven months later, which he lost by a unanimous decision.
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Reach||76 in (193 cm)|
|Born||July 11, 1953|
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||February 5, 2021 (aged 67)|
Henderson, Nevada, U.S.
|Wins by KO||14|
Besides being heavyweight champion and his characteristic gap-toothed grin (due to losing two and later all four of his front teeth), Spinks gained notoriety for the disaster which befell his career following the loss to Ali. However, he did challenge once more for the WBC heavyweight title in 1981 (losing to Larry Holmes by TKO in the third round), and the WBA cruiserweight title in 1986 (losing to Dwight Muhammad Qawi by TKO in the sixth round).
As an amateur, Spinks won numerous medals in the light heavyweight division. The first was bronze at the inaugural 1974 World Championships, followed by silver at the 1975 Pan American Games, and gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics; the latter alongside his brother Michael Spinks, who won middleweight gold. Leon served in the United States Marine Corps from 1973 to 1976, rising to the rank of corporal. He was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and was on the Marine Corps Boxing Team.
Spinks won three consecutive national AAU light heavyweight championships from 1974 to 1976, the first of which came against future champion Michael Dokes. He was serving in the Marine Corps at the time.
Spinks won the light heavyweight gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He defeated Abdel Latif Fatihi, Anatoliy Klimanov, Ottomar Sachse, and Janusz Gortat en route to the final, where he defeated Sixto Soria to win the gold.
Spinks finished his amateur career with a record of 178–7 with 133 knockouts.
Spinks debuted professionally on January 15, 1977, in Las Vegas, Nevada, beating Bob Smith by knockout in five rounds. His next fight was in Liverpool, England, where he beat Peter Freeman by a first-round knockout. Later, he saw an improvement in opposition quality, when he fought Pedro Agosto of Puerto Rico and knocked him out in round one. He then fought Scott LeDoux to a draw and defeated Italian champion Alfio Righetti in a decision.
Spinks vs. AliEdit
At the time a lower-ranked contender, he made history on February 15, 1978, by beating Muhammad Ali on a 15-round split decision in Las Vegas, Nevada. Spinks won the world heavyweight title in his eighth professional fight, the shortest span in history. The aging Ali had expected an easy fight, but he was out-boxed by Spinks, who did not tire throughout the bout. It was one of the few occasions when Ali left the ring with a bruised and puffy face.
The victory over Ali was the peak of Spinks' career. He was the only man to take a title from Muhammad Ali in the ring, as Ali's other losses were non-title contests or bouts where Ali was the challenger. Spinks' gap-toothed grin was featured on the cover of the February 19, 1978 issue of Sports Illustrated.
However, Spinks was stripped of his world title by the WBC for refusing to defend it against Ken Norton, instead agreeing to a return bout against Ali to defend his WBA crown. The title, stripped from Spinks, was then awarded to Norton.
His second match with Ali, at the Louisiana Superdome on September 15, 1978, went badly for Spinks. A now-in-shape Ali—with better, sharper tactics—rarely lost control, winning back his title by a unanimous fifteen-round decision. Ali regained the title, becoming the first three-time lineal heavyweight champion. Spinks was never given a rematch; Ali retired after the fight (although he came out of retirement a few years later to fight Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick).
Spinks's next fight, his only one in 1979, was at Monte Carlo, where he was knocked out in the first round by future WBA world heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee. In the following fight, Spinks defeated former world title challenger and European title holder Alfredo Evangelista by a knockout in round 5. He then fought to a draw in with Eddie López, scored a knockout over Kevin Isaac in May, and, in October, beat the WBC's top-ranked challenger, Bernardo Mercado, by a knockout in round nine on the undercard of Muhammad Ali vs. Larry Holmes.
His strong performance against Mercado earned Spinks a title match against Larry Holmes. In Spinks' only fight in 1981, on June 12 and what would be his last opportunity to win the heavyweight title, he took multiple punches without responding in the third round and the referee stopped the fight.
Move to cruiserweightEdit
It was Spinks' last heavyweight bout for years, as he began boxing in the cruiserweight division. He beat contender Ivy Brown by a decision in ten rounds, and gained a decision against former and future title challenger Jesse Burnett in twelve rounds.
Spinks was due to face the World Cruiserweight number one David Pearce, but the fight was called off on 24 hours notice after the fighters had both weighed in, due to the BBBoC stance on Pearce fighting abroad in the newly formed Cruiserweight division.
When his brother Michael Spinks defeated Larry Holmes in a controversial upset for the IBF heavyweight championship in 1985, they became the only brothers to have held world heavyweight championships. They kept the distinction until the Klitschko brothers became champions two decades later.
In the 1980s Leon Spinks competed in several boxer vs. wrestler matches in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), including losing by submission to Antonio Inoki. In 1986 Spinks earned his last championship opportunity, fighting Dwight Muhammad Qawi for the WBA cruiserweight championship. Qawi had been defeated by Michael Spinks three years earlier for his WBC light heavyweight championship. However, Leon lost by TKO in the sixth round.
Spinks boxed for another eight years with mixed results. In 1994 he lost a bout by KO to John Carlo, the first time a former heavyweight champion had lost to a boxer making his pro debut (promoter Charles Farrell later admitted to falsifying Carlo's record in order to get the fight sanctioned by the District of Columbia). Spinks retired at age 42, after losing an 8-round decision to Fred Houpe in 1995, who was coming off a seventeen-year hiatus.
Life after boxingEdit
During the 1990s, Spinks worked for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, winning its world title in 1992, making him only the second man (after Primo Carnera) to hold titles in both boxing and wrestling. In the late 1990s, Spinks was a headliner on year-round, touring autograph shows.
Personal life and healthEdit
In 1990, Leon's other son, Leon Calvin, was shot to death in East St. Louis as he was driving home from his girlfriend's house. Calvin was an aspiring light heavyweight pro boxer with a record of 2–0, with the two pro bouts occurring only a month before he died. Leon's grandson and Calvin's son, Leon Spinks III, is an aspiring light heavyweight southpaw boxer with a pro record of 11–3–1 with seven knockouts, his last outing being a six-round draw with Robbie Cannon in October 2017.
Spinks perceptibly slurred his words after his active boxing days, and was diagnosed in 2012 with shrinkage in his brain, which doctors said was likely caused by the accumulated punches that he took during his career. In 2011, Spinks and his wife Brenda moved to Las Vegas. Spinks was hospitalized twice in 2014 in a Las Vegas hospital for surgery due to abdominal problems, from which he recovered.
Professional boxing recordEdit
|46 fights||26 wins||17 losses|
|46||Loss||26–17–3||Fred Houpe||UD||8||Dec 4, 1995||A Little Bit of Texas, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.|
|45||Win||26–16–3||Ray Kipping||UD||8||Jun 19, 1995||A Little Bit of Texas, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.|
|44||Loss||25–16–3||John Carlo||KO||1, 1:09||Oct 22, 1994||Convention Center, Washington, D.C., U.S.|
|43||Loss||25–15–3||Shane Sutcliffe||UD||8||Oct 1, 1994||Civic Arena, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada|
|42||Win||25–14–3||Eddie Curry||DQ||9 (10)||Jun 22, 1994||Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S.||Curry disqualified after refusing to answer the bell for round 9, believing the fight was scheduled for 8 rounds|
|41||Loss||24–14–3||James Wilder||PTS||10||Feb 27, 1993||Davenport, Iowa, U.S.|
|40||Win||24–13–3||Kevin Poindexter||KO||1 (10), 2:37||Dec 11, 1992||Union Hall, Countryside, Illinois, U.S.|
|39||Loss||23–13–3||Kevin Porter||PTS||10||Sep 26, 1992||Lansing, Michigan, U.S.|
|38||Win||23–12–3||Jack Jackson||KO||3 (10), 2:52||Jul 24, 1992||Union Hall, Countryside, Illinois, U.S.|
|37||Win||22–12–3||Rocky Bentley||PTS||10||Jun 17, 1992||World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.|
|36||Win||21–12–3||Rick Myers||UD||10||Mar 20, 1992||Clarion Hotel Ballroom, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.|
|35||Win||20–12–3||Andre Crowder||SD||10||Feb 28, 1992||Union Hall, Countryside, Illinois, U.S.|
|34||Win||19–12–3||Lupe Guerra||KO||3 (10), 2:13||Nov 15, 1991||Genesis Convention Center, Gary, Indiana, U.S.|
|33||Loss||18–12–3||Tony Morrison||TKO||1 (10), 0:33||May 30, 1988||Marriott Hotel, Trumbull, Connecticut, U.S.|
|32||Loss||18–11–3||Randall Cobb||MD||10||Mar 18, 1988||Municipal Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.|
|31||Loss||18–10–3||Ladislao Mijangos||SD||10||Dec 20, 1987||Convention Center Arena, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.|
|30||Loss||18–9–3||Terry Mims||SD||10||Oct 20, 1987||Swingos, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.|
|29||Draw||18–8–3||Jim Ashard||SD||10||Aug 29, 1987||Lane County Fair grounds, Eugene, Oregon, U.S.|
|28||Loss||18–8–2||Angelo Musone||KO||7 (10)||May 22, 1987||Iesi, Italy|
|27||Win||18–7–2||Jeff Jordan||SD||12||Apr 28, 1987||Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Nagoya, Japan||Won vacant WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title|
|26||Loss||17–7–2||José Ribalta||TKO||1 (10), 2:10||Jan 17, 1987||Coconut Grove Convention Center, Miami, Florida, U.S.|
|25||Loss||17–6–2||Rocky Sekorski||TKO||6 (10), 1:43||Aug 2, 1986||Port Authority, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, U.S.|
|24||Loss||17–5–2||Dwight Muhammad Qawi||TKO||6 (15), 2:56||Mar 22, 1986||Lawlor Events Center, Reno, Nevada, U.S.||For WBA cruiserweight title|
|23||Win||17–4–2||Kip Kane||TKO||8 (12), 1:37||Dec 13, 1985||Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.||Won vacant WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title|
|22||Win||16–4–2||Tom Franco Thomas||UD||10||Jun 29, 1985||Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa, California, U.S.|
|21||Win||15–4–2||Tom Fischer||UD||10||May 9, 1985||Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|20||Win||14–4–2||Rick Kellar||TKO||2 (10), 2:47||Apr 9, 1985||Blaisdell Center Arena, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.|
|19||Win||13–4–2||Lupe Guerra||TKO||4 (10), 0:43||Feb 21, 1985||Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.|
|18||Loss||12–4–2||Carlos de León||RTD||6 (10), 3:00||Mar 6, 1983||Broadway by the Bay Theater, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|17||Win||12–3–2||Jesse Burnett||UD||12||Oct 31, 1982||Great Gorge Resort, McAfee, New Jersey, U.S.||Won vacant NABF cruiserweight title|
|16||Win||11–3–2||Ivy Brown||UD||10||Feb 24, 1982||Playboy Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|15||Loss||10–3–2||Larry Holmes||TKO||3 (15), 2:34||Jun 12, 1981||Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.||For WBC and The Ring heavyweight titles|
|14||Win||10–2–2||Bernardo Mercado||TKO||9 (12), 2:52||Oct 2, 1980||Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|13||Win||9–2–2||Kevin Isaac||TKO||8 (10), 2:11||May 3, 1980||Circle Star Theater, San Carlos, California, U.S.|
|12||Draw||8–2–2||Eddie López||SD||10||Mar 8, 1980||The Aladdin, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|11||Win||8–2–1||Alfredo Evangelista||KO||5 (10), 2:43||Jan 12, 1980||Resorts International Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|10||Loss||7–2–1||Gerrie Coetzee||TKO||1 (12), 2:03||Jun 24, 1979||Le Chapiteau de l'Espace, Fontvieille, Monaco|
|9||Loss||7–1–1||Muhammad Ali||UD||15||Sep 15, 1978||Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.||Lost WBA and The Ring heavyweight titles|
|8||Win||7–0–1||Muhammad Ali||SD||15||Feb 15, 1978||Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.||Won WBA, WBC, and The Ring heavyweight titles|
|7||Win||6–0–1||Alfio Righetti||UD||10||Nov 18, 1977||Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|6||Draw||5–0–1||Scott LeDoux||SD||10||Oct 22, 1977||The Aladdin, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
|5||Win||5–0||Bruce Scott||KO||3 (8), 3:02||Jun 1, 1977||Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
|4||Win||4–0||Pedro Agosto||KO||1 (8), 1:55||May 7, 1977||Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.|
|3||Win||3–0||Jerry McIntyre||KO||1 (6), 0:35||Mar 20, 1977||Exposition Center, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.|
|2||Win||2–0||Peter Freeman||KO||1 (6), 1:26||Mar 5, 1977||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England|
|1||Win||1–0||Bob Smith||TKO||5 (6), 0:20||Jan 15, 1977||The Aladdin, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.|
- "Boxing record for Leon Spinks". BoxRec.
- "Riches to rags" The Boston Globe, December 21, 2005
- Barber, James. "How the Marine Corps Gave Leon Spinks His Shot at Greatness", Military.com website, February 8, 2021. Accessed February 14, 2021.
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated, March 1993 issue, p. 27.
- Moriello, John (April 11, 2020). "Leon Spinks Is Facing a Sad Ending After a Wasted Boxing Career". Sportscasting. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- "Spinks welcomed home". The Gaffney Ledger. August 11, 1976. p. 10. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- "Leon Spinks, 67-Years-Old, Passes Away After Long Battle With Cancer". BoxingScene. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- "U.S. boxers haul gold". archive.nytimes.com. July 31, 1976. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- Smith, Sam. "Leon Spinks finds his way". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- "Leon Spinks Pro Debut Stops Bob Smith This Day January 15, 1977 – Boxing Hall of Fame". Boxing Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- "Ex-Bolton boxer Peter Freeman has no regrets about the day 'Neon' Leon Spinks put his lights out". The Bolton News. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- "Leon Spinks KOs Pedro Agosto This Day May 7, 1977 – Boxing Hall of Fame". Boxing Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- Goodpaster, Mike (April 12, 2020). "Scott LeDoux: The Fighting Frenchman and his shot at the title". The Grueling Truth. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Amato, Jim. "Alfio Righetti". www.myboxingfans.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Leon Spinks, ex-champ who upset Ali, dies at 67". ESPN.com. February 6, 2021. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Ruiz, Michael (February 6, 2021). "Boxing legend Leon Spinks dies at 67". Fox News. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Putnam, Pat. "SI Vault: Ali takes sloppy win, title from Spinks". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Spinks Stripped of Crown; W.B.C. Recognizes Norton (Published 1978)". The New York Times. March 19, 1978. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Leon Spinks". Cyber Boxing Zone. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
- Brady, Dave (June 26, 1979). "Spinks Wasn't in Shape, Former Trainer Opines". Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Nack, William. "Spinks was no sphinx". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Whicker: Remembering Eddie Lopez, the animal who laughed". Orange County Register. July 23, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Katz, Michael (June 8, 1981). "Leon Spinks in search of himself and title". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "'U.S. Title' Captured By Spinks". Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Larry Holmes knocks out Leon Spinks in third round for title". Dispatch Argus. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Katz, Michael (February 24, 1982). "Leon Spinks starts out in a new class". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Katz, Michael (November 1, 1982). "Leon Spinks returns with a victory". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "David Pearce: Statue of 'Newport's Rocky' to inspire boxers". BBC News. June 9, 2018. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Hummel, Rick. "St. Louisan and former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks dies at 67". STLtoday.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Boxing Legend Leon Spinks, Who Once Had Match With Antonio Inoki, Dead At 67". 411mania.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks dies at 67 after lengthy cancer battle". CBSSports.com. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "The Fix Is In". Snap Judgment. NPR. June 13, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
- Goldstein, Richard (February 7, 2021). "Leon Spinks, Boxer Who Took Ali's Crown and Lost It, Dies at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Del Rosario, Alexandra (February 7, 2021). "Leon Spinks Jr. Dies: Ex-Heavyweight Boxing Champ Who Defeated Muhammad Ali Was 67". Deadline. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- Steve Sipple, "Ex-champ Leon Spinks cleans up in Columbus". Lincoln Journal Star, April 4, 2005.
- "Leon Spinks, heavyweight champ who once beat Ali, dead at 67". NBC News. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
- "Leon Spinks | American boxer". Encyclopedia Britannica.
- "Leon Spinks's Son Is Fatally Shot". The New York Times. Associated Press. July 23, 1990. Retrieved August 21, 2017.
- "Leon Calvin". BoxRec. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
- "Leon Spinks III". BoxRec. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
- "Former champion Leon Spinks hospitalized". USA Today. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
- "Boxing Champ Leon Spinks' Prostate Cancer Has Spread – What Are the Treatment Options?". SurvivorNet.
- Goldstein, Richard (February 6, 2021). "Leon Spinks, Boxer Who Took Ali's Crown and Lost It, Dies at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
- Boxing record for Leon Spinks from BoxRec (registration required)
- Leon Spinks — CBZ Profile
- Leon Spinks at IMDb
Media related to Leon Spinks at Wikimedia Commons
|Amateur boxing titles|
| U.S. light heavyweight champion
|Regional boxing titles|
Title last held byS. T. Gordon
| NABF cruiserweight champion
October 31, 1982 – May 1984
Title next held byAnthony Davis
Title last held byMichael Dokes
| WBC Continental Americas
December 13, 1985 – March 1986
Title next held byAdílson Rodrigues
Title last held byAdílson Rodrigues
| WBC Continental Americas
April 28, 1987 – April 1988
Title next held byMichael Dokes
|World boxing titles|
|Preceded by|| WBA heavyweight champion
February 15, 1978 – September 15, 1978
| WBC heavyweight champion
February 15, 1978 – March 18, 1978
| The Ring heavyweight champion
February 15, 1978 – September 15, 1978
| Undisputed heavyweight champion
February 15, 1978 – March 18, 1978
Title next held byMike Tyson
|Professional wrestling titles|
|Preceded by|| WWA World Martial Arts
March 25, 1992 – May 24, 1992
| BWAA Fighter of the Year
With: Howard Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard,
Leo Randolph, and Michael Spinks
George Foreman vs.
| The Ring Fight of the Year
vs. Muhammad Ali
Danny Lopez vs.
KO10 Alfonso Zamora
| The Ring Upset of the Year
SD15 Muhammad Ali
SD15 Marvin Hagler