Leon Spinks

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Leon Spinks
Leon Spinks 1.jpg
Real name Leon Spinks
Nickname(s) "Neon" Leon
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Reach 76 in (193 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1953-07-11) July 11, 1953 (age 63)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 46
Wins 26
Wins by KO 14
Losses 17
Draws 3

Leon Spinks (born July 11, 1953) is an American former boxer who was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Spinks had an overall record of 26 wins, 17 losses and three draws as a professional, with 14 of those wins by knockout. In only his eighth professional bout, Spinks won the undisputed world heavyweight championship when he beat Muhammad Ali on February 15, 1978, in what was considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. However, he was stripped of the WBC title for fighting Ali in an unapproved rematch seven months later, which he lost by a 15-round unanimous decision. 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.[1]

Prior to turning professional, Spinks won a bronze medal at the inaugural 1974 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Havana. Two years later, he capped off his amateur career by winning a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, alongside his brother Michael Spinks, who won the gold at middleweight. Leon defeated Cuban great Sixto Soria in an entertaining slugfest where Spinks was rocked several times by the much more polished fighter but landed a crushing overhand right that put Soria face down on the canvas. His Olympic teammates included Sugar Ray Leonard, Leo Randolph and Howard Davis Jr. Spinks also served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps from 1973 to 1976.

Professional career[edit]

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 by a decision.

First Ali match[edit]

Now a lower ranked contender, he made history on February 15, 1978, by beating Muhammad Ali on a 15-round split decision in Las Vegas. Spinks won the world heavyweight title in his eighth professional fight, the shortest time 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.

Spinks' victory over Ali was the peak of his 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.

The Ali rematch[edit]

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 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).

Career development[edit]

Spinks defeats Ray Kipping June 19, 1995, St. Louis
Spinks during his final victory held at the "Little bit of Texas" in St.Louis

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 fought to a draw in with Eddie López, and beat the WBC's top-ranked challenger, Bernardo Mercado, by a knockout in round nine.

The Holmes title fight[edit]

His strong performance against Mercado earned Spinks a title match against Larry Holmes. In Spinks' only fight in 1981, and what would be his last chance opportunity at the heavyweight title, he had a clear loss by a TKO in the third round at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on June 12.

Changes weight division[edit]

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 a gained a decision against former and future title challenger Jesse Burnett in twelve rounds.

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, 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 Spinks lost by TKO in the sixth round. During the fight, Qawi taunted Spinks as he beat him mercilessly in a corner.

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).[2] Spinks retired at age 42, after losing an 8-round decision to Fred Houpe in 1995, who was coming off a seventeen-year hiatus.

Professional boxing record[edit]

26 Wins (14 knockouts, 11 decisions, 1 disqualification), 17 Losses (9 knockouts, 8 decisions), 3 Draws[3]
Result Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Loss 26-17-3 Fred Houpe UD 8 December 4, 1995 United States Saint Louis, Missouri
Win 26-16-3 Ray Kipping UD 8 June 19, 1995 United States Saint Louis, Missouri
Loss 25-16-3 John Carlo KO 1 October 22, 1994 United States Washington, D.C.
Loss 25-15-3 Shane Sutcliffe UD 8 October 1, 1994 Canada Nanaimo, British Columbia
Win 25-14-3 Eddie Curry DQ 9 June 22, 1994 United States Raleigh, North Carolina Unsanctioned show.
Loss 24-14-3 James Wilder PTS 10 February 27, 1993 United States Davenport, Iowa
Win 24-13-3 Kevin Poindexter KO 1 December 11, 1992 United States Countryside, Illinois
Loss 23-13-3 Kevin Porter PTS 10 September 26, 1992 United States Lansing, Michigan
Win 23-12-3 Jack Jackson KO 3 July 24, 1992 United States Countryside, Illinois
Win 22-12-3 Kenneth Bentley PTS 10 June 17, 1992 United States Atlanta, Georgia
Win 21-12-3 Rick Myers PTS 10 March 20, 1992 United States Saint Louis, Missouri
Win 20-12-3 Andre Crowder SD 10 February 28, 1992 United States Countryside, Illinois
Win 19-12-3 Lupe Guerra KO 3 November 15, 1991 United States Gary, Indiana
Loss 18-12-3 Tony Morrison TKO 1 May 30, 1988 United States Trumbull, Connecticut
Loss 18-11-3 Randall Cobb MD 10 March 18, 1988 United States Nashville, Tennessee
Loss 18-10-3 Ladislao Mijangos SD 10 December 20, 1987 United States San Antonio, Texas
Loss 18-9-3 Terry Mims SD 10 October 20, 1987 United States Cleveland, Ohio
Draw 18-8-3 Jim Ashard PTS 10 August 29, 1987 United States Eugene, Oregon
Loss 18-8-2 Angelo Musone KO 7 May 22, 1987 Italy Jesi, Italy
Win 18-7-2 Jeff Jordan SD 12 April 28, 1987 Japan Nagoya, Japan Won WBC Continental Americas
Heavyweight title, which was later
Loss 17-7-2 Jose Ribalta TKO 1 January 17, 1987 United States Coconut Grove, Florida
Loss 17-6-2 Rocky Sekorski TKO 6 August 2, 1986 United States Detroit Lks., Minnesota
Loss 17-5-2 Dwight Muhammad
TKO 6 March 22, 1986 United States Reno, Nevada Match was for the WBA Cruiserweight
Win 17-4-2 Kip Kane TKO 8 December 13, 1985 United States New York City, New York Won WBC Continental Americas
Heavyweight title, which was later
Win 16-4-2 Tom Franco Thomas PTS 10 June 29, 1985 United States Santa Rosa, California
Win 15-4-2 Tom Fischer PTS 10 May 9, 1985 United States Detroit, Michigan
Win 14-4-2 Rick Kellar TKO 2 April 9, 1985 United States Honolulu, Hawaii
Win 13-4-2 Lupe Guerra TKO 4 February 21, 1985 United States Detroit, Michigan
Loss 12-4-2 Carlos De León UD 6 (10) March 6, 1983 United States Atlantic City, New Jersey Spinks later vacated the NABF
Cruiserweight title.
Win 12-3-2 Jesse Burnett UD 12 October 31, 1982 United States McAfee, New Jersey Won vacant NABF Cruiserweight title.
Win 11-3-2 Ivy Brown PTS 10 February 24, 1982 United States Atlantic City, New Jersey
Loss 10-3-2 Larry Holmes TKO 3 June 12, 1981 United States Detroit, Michigan Fight was for the WBC Heavyweight
Win 10-2-2 Bernardo Mercado TKO 9 October 2, 1980 United States Las Vegas, Nevada WBC Heavyweight title eliminator.
Win 9-2-2 Kevin Isaac TKO 8 May 3, 1980 United States Redwood City, California
Draw 8-2-2 Eddie López PTS 10 March 8, 1980 United States Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 8-2-1 Alfredo Evangelista KO 5 January 12, 1980 United States Atlantic City, New Jersey
Loss 7-2-1 Gerrie Coetzee TKO 1 June 24, 1979 Monaco Monte Carlo, Monaco
Loss 7-1-1 Muhammad Ali UD 15 September 15, 1978 United States New Orleans, Louisiana Lost The Ring/WBA Heavyweight titles.
On March 18, 1978, Spinks was stripped of the WBC Heavyweight title for refusal to fight Ken Norton, the WBC's number-one contender, in favor of a rematch with Ali
Win 7-0-1 Muhammad Ali SD 15 February 15, 1978 United States Las Vegas, Nevada Won The Ring/WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles.
Win 6-0-1 Alfio Righetti UD 10 November 18, 1977 United States Las Vegas, Nevada
Draw 5-0-1 Scott LeDoux PTS 10 October 22, 1977 United States Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 5-0 Bruce Scott KO 3 June 1, 1977 Canada Montreal, Quebec
Win 4-0 Pedro Agosto KO 1 May 7, 1977 United States Saint Louis, Missouri
Win 3-0 Jerry McIntyre KO 1 March 20, 1977 United States Louisville, Kentucky
Win 2-0 Peter Freeman KO 1 March 5, 1977 United Kingdom Liverpool, England
Win 1-0 Bob Smith TKO 5 January 15, 1977 United States Las Vegas, Nevada

Amateur career[edit]

  • 1974, 1975, and 1976 National AAU light heavyweight champion
  • Defeated future champion Michael Dokes for first AAU title in 1974

Olympic results[edit]

  • Defeated Abellatif Fatihi (Morocco) KO 1
  • Defeated Anatoly Klimanov (Soviet Union) 5-0
  • Defeated Ottomar Sachse (East Germany) 5-0
  • Defeated Janusz Gortat (Poland) 5-0
  • Defeated Sixto Soria (Cuba) RSC 3

After boxing[edit]

During the 1990s, Spinks worked for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, winning its world title in 1992 making him the only man to hold titles in both boxing and wrestling.[4] In the late 1990s, Spinks was a headliner on year-round, touring autograph shows.

In 2009 Spinks was featured as part of the 2009 documentary Facing Ali, in which notable former opponents of Ali speak about how fighting Ali changed their lives.

As of 2012, Spinks lives in Columbus, Nebraska. He told a reporter his life is "comfortable", and that he keeps a low profile.[5]

"I love helping the kids," he says. He loves being a hero to them and he also still loves working a room.[6]

Personal life[edit]

His son, Cory Spinks, held the undisputed welterweight title and was the International Boxing Federation Junior Middleweight champion in 2006–2008.

In 1990, his son, Leon Calvin, was shot to death in East St. Louis as he was driving home from his girlfriend's house. Leon Calvin, 19, was a light heavyweight boxer who had turned pro the month before his murder.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Riches to rags" The Boston Globe, December 21, 2005
  2. ^ "The Fix Is In". Snap Judgment. NPR. June 13, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Leon Spinks' career boxing record". BoxRec. Retrieved July 27, 2008. 
  4. ^ Pro Wrestling Illustrated, March 1993 issue, p.27
  5. ^ Steve Sipple, "Ex-champ Leon Spinks cleans up in Columbus". Lincoln Journal Star, April 4, 2005.
  6. ^ Powell, Jeff (June 2, 2010). "Leon Spinks today". The Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Florio, John; Shapiro, Ouisie (2013). One Punch from the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title. Lyons Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-7627-8300-7. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Muhammad Ali
WBA Heavyweight Champion
February 15, 1978 - September 15, 1978
Succeeded by
Muhammad Ali
WBC Heavyweight Champion
February 15, 1978 - March 18, 1978
Succeeded by
Ken Norton
Awarded title
Preceded by
Jimmy Young W12 George Foreman
(March 17, 1977)
Ring Magazine Fight of the Year
1978 - W15 Muhammad Ali (February 15)
Succeeded by
Danny Lopez KO15 Mike Ayala
(June 17, 1979)
Preceded by
Jorge Lujan KO10 Alfonso Zamora
(November 19, 1977)
Ring Magazine Upset of the Year
1978 - W15 Muhammad Ali (February 15)
Succeeded by
Vito Antuofermo D15 Marvin Hagler
(November 30, 1979)