He was one of the few who brought boxing legend Mohamed Ali down from his pedestal. Former world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks died on Friday at the age of 67, according to those around him. Sick of cancer, Spinks was hospitalized in December in Las Vegas, according to a press release from the communications agency The Firm.
“He fought the final battle with the same qualities (…) which accompanied him in the face of many challenges in life. Leon fought against a number of illnesses, never losing his legendary smile. Showing real determination, he never threw in the towel, ” the statement said.
Olympic champion in 1976 in Montreal
During his career, Spinks recorded 26 wins, 17 losses and three draws. As an amateur, he won Olympic light heavyweight gold in 1976 in Montreal, before turning pro six months later at the age of 23.
After only eight fights (7 wins and 1 draw), Spinks faced on February 15, 1978 in Las Vegas the already famous Mohamed Ali, then aged 36, who was looking for an easy fight for which some bookmakers did not even consider interesting. to open bets. And yet, after fifteen rounds, just thirteen months after his professional debut, Spinks was declared the winner by split decision, the most glorious moment of his career.
“He was just an opponent, but he found a way to win this fight,” said promoter Bob Arum. Seven months later, Ali took his revenge by unanimous decision , in front of 70,000 spectators gathered at the Superdome in New Orleans and an estimated national television audience of 90 million people.
Drugs and alcohol
Thereafter, Leon Spinks fought for a world title only on one occasion, in 1981. A fight lost by stoppage of the referee in the third round. Popular since his success on Ali, but plagued by alcohol and drug problems, Spinks quickly found himself in financial trouble, despite his earnings.
“ Spinks might have been better ,” Arum said, “ but he enjoyed life as a champion too much and partied most of the time between fights,” adding:
“Leon was a little nuts, but it was impossible to blame him. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. You couldn’t help but love him, even though what he was doing made you shake your head. “
Leon Spinks’ brother, Michael who was also Olympic champion in 1976, in turn became world heavyweight champion in 1985, before being beaten by Mike Tyson in 1988. The Spinks thus became the first brothers to have each held this title.
By then, the peak of Leon Spinks’ career had long passed. He will finish it off with a last anecdotal fight – and a defeat – in 1995. His son, Cory Spinks, will, in turn, be the welterweight world champion in the 2000s.