Michael Spinks

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Michael Spinks
Michael Spinks 1987.JPG
Spinks in 1987
Real name Michael Spinks
Nickname(s) Jinx
Rated at Light Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Reach 76 in (193 cm)
Nationality United States American
Born (1956-07-13) July 13, 1956 (age 59)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 32
Wins 31
Wins by KO 21
Losses 1
Draws 0
No contests 0

Michael Spinks (born July 13, 1956 in St. Louis, Missouri) is an American former boxer who was an Olympic gold medalist and world champion in the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. Nicknamed Jinx, which spawned the nickname of his right hand: The Spinks Jinx,[1][2] he is the brother of former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, and uncle of Cory Spinks, a former welterweight and light middleweight champion.

After a successful amateur career, which culminated in him winning a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, Spinks went undefeated in his first 31 professional fights, beating such opponents as Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Marvin Johnson and Eddie Davis en route to becoming undisputed world light-heavyweight champion. Following ten successful title defences, Spinks moved up to heavyweight and as underdog beat the long-reigning IBF heavyweight champion Larry Holmes; in doing so, Spinks became the first reigning light-heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title. In his final fight, Spinks was knocked out by Mike Tyson in 91 seconds, the only defeat of his professional career.

Spinks has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. The International Boxing Research Organization and Boxrec rate Spinks among the ten greatest light-heavyweights of all time.[3][4]

Amateur career[edit]

Spinks won the 1974 156-pound Golden Gloves Light Middleweight Championship by defeating Wilber Cameron in Denver, Colorado and then took the Silver Medal in the National AAU 165-pound Championship Competition in 1975, losing in three rounds to Tom Sullivan in Shreveport, Louisiana.[citation needed] He rebounded to take the 1976 National Golden Gloves Middleweight championship with a three-round victory over Lamont Kirkland in Miami, Florida, and that same year captured the United States Olympic Trials Middleweight Championship by defeating Keith Broom in Cincinnati, Ohio. He went on to defeat the Soviet Union's Rufat Riskiev to win the Gold Medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Spinks finished with a 93-7 amateur record with 35 knockouts.[5]

With the Olympics behind him, Spinks returned to work at a chemical factory in St. Louis, "scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets," as one source[who?] tells it. He had no big contracts awaiting him and, while Michael appeared to experts[who?] to be the more promising of the two brothers, Leon was at that time the big shooting star, a television staple of ABC Sports, on his way to a shot at heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. Michael had their mother to care for, and he was intent on helping Leon prepare for Ali.[citation needed] All of this pushed Michael's career to the back burner. It was Butch Lewis in 1977 who convinced Michael to turn professional, and he did.[2][6][7]

Professional career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Spinks then turned professional with a win over Eddie Benson, knocked out in one round on April 17, 1977 in Las Vegas. Spinks began with that, a 31 fight winning streak that would almost extend to the end of his career. After four more wins, Spinks finished '77 with the first fight that began a gradual ascent in opposition quality: an eight round decision over Gary Summerhays, a popular young boxer of the time.

In 1978, Spinks won two fights, including an eight round decision over former world Middleweight title challenger Tom Bethea, in the same undercard where his brother Leon dethroned Ali as world Heavyweight champion in Las Vegas.

1979 saw Spinks get less than three minutes of boxing action inside a ring, with his only fight ending in a first round knockout of Marc Hans, but in 1980, Spinks took his ascent towards the top to another level, when he beat future IBF super-middleweight champion Murray Sutherland, David Conteh, and fringe contenders Ramon Ronquillo and Alvaro Yaqui Lopez (who challenged for a world title four times). Of his five wins that year, three came by knockout, Sutherland and Johnny Wilburn being the only ones who lasted the distance.

First world title[edit]

By 1981, Spinks was already a top ranked contender, and after beating former and future world light-heavyweight champion Marvin Johnson by a knockout in four rounds, the WBA made Spinks their number one challenger, and so, on July 18 of that year, he met WBA light-heavyweight champion Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, once again in Las Vegas. Spinks dropped Mustafa Muhammad in round 12 and went on to become world Light Heavyweight champion with a 15 round decision win. He defended the title once in '81, beating Vonzell Johnson by a knockout in seven.

1982 began with a knockout victory over Mustafa Wassaja. Spinks had become a superstar, at least in the boxing world. He began appearing on the covers of boxing magazines and boxing fans started clamoring for a unification fight with WBC champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi. Tragedy struck his life, however, when in January 1983, his 24-year-old wife, Sandy Massey, died in a car crash, leaving Spinks the single parent of his two-year-old daughter, Michelle.

Spinks vs Qawi[edit]

Meanwhile, the fight all the fans wanted was being asked for by boxing critics and magazine editors, too. On March 18, two months after his wife's death, Spinks and Qawi met in a boxing ring. The fight was broadcast by HBO World Championship Boxing, and, according to the book The Ring: Boxing the 20th Century, Spinks had a very tough moment to overcome before it even started: His daughter asked him, while he was in his dressing room, if her mother would come to watch the fight. Spinks broke into tears, but soon had to recover and get into the ring, where he and Qawi fought to unify the crown. Spinks was nearly floored in round eight, but he stayed upright and won a 15 round unanimous decision to become the undisputed world light-heavyweight champion. He defended the title one more time before the end of the year, against Oscar Rivadeneira in Alaska, whom he beat by a ten round knockout.

Spinks fought only once in 1984, retaining his crown with a twelve-round majority decision over Eddie Davis. He and Qawi were only a couple of weeks away from fighting a rematch in September of that year, but that fight got called off when Qawi was injured during training.

Holmes vs Spinks[edit]

In 1985, Spinks beat David Sears and Jim McDonald, both by knockout, in title defenses, before challenging Larry Holmes for the world heavyweight championship in a fight recognized by the IBF. Holmes was trying to tie Rocky Marciano's record of 49-0 as the heavyweight champion, but it was Spinks who made history that night, winning a controversial and narrow fifteen-round unanimous decision and becoming the first world light-heavyweight champion since Tommy Burns in 1908 to win the world heavyweight title. His controversial victory over Larry Holmes was named Ring Magazine Upset of the Year. With this, Michael and Leon had also become the first pair of brothers ever to be world heavyweight champions, followed two decades later by Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.

In 1986, Spinks and Holmes fought a rematch, and had nearly the same result, this time Spinks winning by a 15 round split decision. After that, he retained the world heavyweight championship once again, by a knockout in four against Steffen Tangstad. In 1987 he was stripped of the crown by the IBF for refusing to fight their mandatory challenger, Tony Tucker, and accepting a higher offer to fight Gerry Cooney instead. Spinks knocked out Cooney in five rounds, and after Mike Tyson had unified the Heavyweight belts, fans started clamoring for a fight between them as many still recognized Spinks as the legitimate Lineal champion.

Spinks vs Tyson[edit]

The fight took place in June 1988, with Tyson knocking Spinks down twice on his way to a first round knockout. Tyson was the only fighter to ever floor Spinks. It would be Spinks's first defeat in the professional ring, as well as his last, as he retired following the fight.

Spinks had a record of 31 wins and 1 loss, with 21 wins by knockout as a professional.

In addition to his success as a heavyweight, Spinks is generally considered one of the greatest light-heavyweight champions and fighters of all time. He was the only light-heavyweight champion to remain undefeated in the entire history of the division since its inception in 1903, as well as the only reigning light-heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title.

The Ring Magazine in 2002 ranked Spinks as the third greatest lightheavyweight of all time, behind Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore, but ahead of Tommy Loughran, Bob Foster, Harold Johnson, Maxie Rosenbloom and Billy Conn. Furthermore, Spinks did what no other lightheavyweight champion was ever able to do: move up to win the world heavyweight championship, by decisioning IBF champion Larry Holmes in 1985.[8]

On The Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time, Spinks was ranked 42nd.[9]

On The Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years, released in 2002, Spinks ranked 41st.[10]

East Side Boxing said in its tribute to Spinks, "Michael Spinks went undefeated fighting during the deepest era in Light Heavyweight history. And he beat the real heavyweight champion to win the title, who was also undefeated. Michael Spinks is the most accomplished light heavyweight champion in history."[11]

Post boxing[edit]

Spinks remains pretty much out of the public eye, although Ken Hissner reported that, "In October 2007 he was introduced into the ring at the Legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. He seemed quite at home in the ring waving and talking to the fans."[12]

Spinks is the rare top fighter who left the sport with both money and his health and never returned to the ring. Aside from a rare event honoring him and occasionally attending fights, Spinks has remained off the boxing scene and out of the public eye.

The former champion lives privately in a seven-bedroom house, not including the guest house, on a five-acre spread outside Wilmington, Delaware. However, he has been known for visiting schools—carrying his gold medal and four title belts—where he tells kids to pursue their dreams. "Most of the kids don't have a clue who I am," he says, "but they listen when they see all the gold."[13]

For years he remained close to his former promoter, Butch Lewis, training fighters and making rare public appearances at events promoted by Lewis.[14]

In 2011, however, after Lewis died from natural causes,[15] it was reported that Spinks had sued Lewis's estate in a Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that the promoter had failed to properly manage the more than $24 million Spinks had earned in the ring and had violated their agreements that Lewis would continue to manage Spinks's money and pay his living expenses for the rest of the boxer's life. The lawsuit alleged that he commingled his personal funds with Spinks's and used Spinks's money to pay his and his children's own personal and business expenses. Also name as a defendant was Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, head of the real estate firm of RLJ Development LLC, in Bethesda, Maryland, and one of the executors of Lewis's $8.5 million estate.

According to Spinks's lawyers, following Lewis's death Johnson and attorney Leonard Williams stopped the payments without telling him, which in turn caused Spinks' health insurance to lapse and bills totaling up to $50,000 a month to go unpaid. "Spinks had to invade his pension and retirement funds and incur significant taxes and penalties in order to meet these obligations," the boxer's lawyers added in the filings.

Spinks asked that the court bar Johnson and Williams from transferring any further assets from Lewis's estate until there can be a full accounting and payments to Spinks are resumed.[16]

Professional boxing record[edit]

31 Wins (21 KOs, 10 decisions), 1 Loss (1 KO)[17]
Res. Record Opponent Type Round,
Date Location Notes
Loss 31-1 United States Mike Tyson KO 1 (12),
1988-06-27 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Lost Lineal/The Ring heavyweight title.
For WBC/WBA/IBF heavyweight titles.
Win 31-0 United States Gerry Cooney TKO 5 (15),
1987-06-15 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained Lineal/The Ring heavyweight titles.
Win 30-0 Norway Steffen Tangstad TKO 4 (12),
1986-09-06 United StatesLas Vegas Hilton, Hilton Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Retained Lineal/The Ring/IBF heavyweight titles.
Win 29-0 United States Larry Holmes SD 15 1986-04-19 United States Las Vegas Hilton, Hilton Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Retained Lineal/The Ring/IBF heavyweight titles.
Win 28-0 United States Larry Holmes UD 15 1985-09-21 United States Riviera Hotel & Casino, Outdoor Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Won Lineal/The Ring/IBF heavyweight titles.
Win 27-0 United States Jim MacDonald TKO 8 (15),
1985-06-06 United States Riviera Hotel & Casino, SuperStar Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Retained Lineal/WBC/WBA/IBF light-heavyweight titles.
Win 26-0 United States David Sears TKO 3 (12),
1985-02-23 United States Sands Casino Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained Lineal/WBC/WBA/IBF light-heavyweight titles.
Win 25-0 United States Eddie Davis UD 12 1984-02-25 United States Resorts International, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained Lineal/WBC/WBA/IBF light-heavyweight titles.
Win 24-0 Peru Oscar Rivadeneyra TKO 10 (15),
1983-11-25 Canada Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Retained Lineal/WBC/WBA light-heavyweight titles.
Win 23-0 United States Dwight Muhammad Qawi UD 15 1983-03-18 United StatesConvention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained WBA light-heavyweight titles. Won WBC, &
vacant Lineal light-heavyweight title.
Win 22-0 United States Johnny Davis TKO 9 (15),
1982-09-18 United States Sands Casino Hotel, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained WBA light-heavyweight title.
Win 21-0 United States Jerry Celestine TKO 8 (15),
1982-06-12 United StatesPlayboy Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained WBA light-heavyweight title.
Win 20-0 United Kingdom Murray Sutherland TKO 8 (15),
1982-04-11 United StatesPlayboy Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained WBA light-heavyweight title.
Win 19-0 Uganda Mustafa Wassaja KO 6 (15),
1982-02-13 United StatesPlayboy Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained WBA light-heavyweight title.
Win 18-0 United States Vonzell Johnson KO 7 (15),
1981-11-07 United StatesPlayboy Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Retained WBA light-heavyweight title.
Win 17-0 United States Eddie Mustafa Muhammad UD 15 1981-07-18 United StatesImperial Palace Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Won WBA light-heavyweight title.
Win 16-0 United States Marvin Johnson KO 4 (10),
1981-03-28 United StatesResorts International, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
Win 15-0 United States Willie Taylor TKO 8 (10),
1981-01-24 United StatesMartin Luther King Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Win 14-0 Mexico Yaqui Lopez TKO 7 (10),
1980-10-18 United StatesConvention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
Win 13-0 United States David Conteh KO 9 (10),
1980-08-02 United States Centroplex, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Win 12-0 United Kingdom Murray Sutherland UD 10 1980-05-04 United States Kiamesha Lake, New York, USA
Win 11-0 United States Ramon Ranquello TKO 6 (10),
1980-02-24 United StatesResorts International, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
Win 10-0 United States Johnny Wilburn UD 8 1980-02-01 United StatesLouisville Gardens, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Win 9-0 United States Marc Hans TKO 1 (8),
1979-11-24 United StatesMetropolitan Sports Center, Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
Win 8-0 United States Eddie Phillips KO 4 (8),
1978-12-15 United StatesWestchester County Center, White Plains, New York, USA
Win 7-0 United States Tom Bethea UD 8 1978-02-15 United StatesHilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Win 6-0 Canada Gary Summerhays UD 8 1977-10-22 United StatesAladdin Theater, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Win 5-0 United States Ray Elson KO 1 (6),
1977-09-13 United StatesOlympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA
Win 4-0 United States Jasper Brisbane TKO 1 (6),
1977-08-23 United StatesSpectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Win 3-0 Canada Joe Borden KO 2 (6),
1977-06-01 Canada Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Win 2-0 United States Luis Rodriguez UD 6 1977-05-07 United StatesKiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
Win 1-0 United States Eddie Benson KO 1 (6),
1977-04-16 United States The Aladdin, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Professional debut.

Amateur highlights[edit]

  • Compiled an amateur record of (93-7)[5]
  • Won the 1974 Light Middleweight (156 lb.) National Golden Gloves Championship.
  • Won the 1976 Middleweight (165 lb.) National Golden Gloves Championship in Miami, Florida.
  • Won the Middleweight Gold Medal for the United States at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. Results were:
    • Defeated Jean-Marie Emebe (Cameroon) forfeit
    • Defeated Ryszard Pasiewicz (Poland) points
    • Defeated Alec Năstac (Romania) forfeit
    • Defeated Rufat Riskiyev (Soviet Union) TKO 3
  • Made it to the finals of the 1975 National AAU, losing to Tommy Brooks[citation needed]

From Mt Scott Community Center in Portland, Oregon.


  1. ^ Lotierzo, Frank J., "Michael Spinks: A Real Champion" Viewing Boxing From Ringside, Tom Donelson, Editor (Writers Club Press, 2002), p. 112
  2. ^ a b Lotierzo, Frank J. "'Spinks Jinx' Charmed and Unparalleled at Light Heavyweight". East Side Boxing. Archived from the original on April 18, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Light-heavyweight". IBRO. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  4. ^ "World all light-heavyweight ratings". BoxRec. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  5. ^ a b BoxRec, Michael Spinks
  6. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol, & John Ranard, On Boxing (HarperCollins Publishers, 1987, 1995, 2006), p. 34
  7. ^ Lotierzo, Frank J., "Michael Spinks: A Real Champion" Viewing Boxing From Ringside, Tom Donelson, Editor (Writers Club Press, 2002), pgs. 111-12
  8. ^ BoxRec, Division-By-Division - The Greatest Fighters of All-Time, As selected by The Ring magazine in various years, Lt Heavyweights, September 2002 Issue
  9. ^ "The 100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time!". The Ring Yearbook: 2003 Edition: 96. October 2003. 
  10. ^ The 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years, as selected by the Ring Magazine in the Annual 2002 Volume II Issue
  11. ^ Lotierzo, Franbk "Michael Spinks: An Appreciation"
  12. ^ Hissner, Ken, "Michael Spinks Interview - From Olympic Boxing Champ to Rocking the Pro Scene!", May 27, 2010 Doghouse Boxing.
  13. ^ O'Keefe, John, "Michael Spinks, Champion Boxer" Sports Illustrated Magazine, Volume 91, No. 5, August 9, 1999, p. 20.
  14. ^ Eisele, Andrew, "Michael Spinks from 1976 Summer Olympics" About.com Boxing
  15. ^ Goldstein, Richard, "Butch Lewis, Flashy Promoter for Boxing's Spinks Brothers, Dies at 65" New York Times, July 24, 2011
  16. ^ Feeley, Jef, & and Phil Milford, "Boxing Champion Michael Spinks Sues Former Promoter's Estate" Bloomberg Business Week, October 14, 2011; the case is Michael Spinks v. the Estate of Ronald E. "Butch" Lewis, 6931, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).
  17. ^ BoxRec, Michael Spinks

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
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad
WBA Light Heavyweight Champion
18 July 1981–21 September 1985
Succeeded by
Marvin Johnson
Preceded by
Dwight Muhammad Qawi
WBC Light Heavyweight Champion
18 March 1983–21 September 1985
Succeeded by
J. B. Williamson
Preceded by
Bob Foster
World Light Heavyweight Champion
February 25, 1984 - September 21, 1985
Succeeded by
Dariusz Michalczewski
Filled vacancy after later unification match
Preceded by
Inaugural champion
IBF Light Heavyweight Champion
February 25, 1984–21 September 1985
Succeeded by
Slobodan Kačar
Preceded by
Larry Holmes
IBF Heavyweight Champion
21 September 1985–19 February 1987
Succeeded by
Tony Tucker
Preceded by
Larry Holmes
The Ring Magazine/Lineal Heavyweight Champion
September 21, 1985 – June 27, 1988
Succeeded by
Mike Tyson
Preceded by
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
BWAA Fighter of the Year
shared award with Sugar Ray Leonard, Leo Randolph,
Howard Davis, Jr. and Leon Spinks
Succeeded by
Ken Norton