Remembering Leon Spinks and Muhammad Ali

By Jesus A, Garcia Jr.

 

I felt sad upon learning last week that former world heavyweight boxing champ Leon Spinks finally succumbed to prostate cancer last February 8 after his five-year battle to beat it. I still recall the day when the young fighter from St. Louis, Missouri suddenly rose to fame in world boxing by pulling off one of the most stunning upsets in prizefighting history by defeating my boxing idol (and also idol of many) the loquacious Muhammad Ali, on February 16, 1978. It was a shocking upset because Spinks just had eight professional fights (7-0-1) with five knockouts, two years after winning the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games gold medal in the light heavyweight division.

I still remember that fateful day when I watched the rumble, live on TV, in Valenzuela, Bulacan at the house of my late cumpadre, Mangaldan-born Alfredo Romero, and saw it how the garrulous Ali suffered a narrow loss to the gap-toothed Spinks via split decision to relinquish his World Boxing Council (WBC) diadem. That unexpected victory of Spinks so stunned the boxing aficionados that Spinks became a superstar in the world of boxing. But five months after that unforgettable match, the sanctioning body WBC stripped Spinks’ tiara because he refused to fight the mandated number one ranked contender Kenny Norton, as he preferred to clash with Ali anew on September 16, 1978, obviously for the bigger income. I said to myself that if Spinks wins again, then Spinks will be my new world boxing hero.

As expected by many, Ali learned the big lesson after the first fight with Spinks and whom sports connoisseurs criticized Ali for not training well, the well-prepared Ali scored a lopsided unanimous decision over Spinks in the second encounter to recapture the heavyweight title, this time the World Boxing Association (WBA) belt. WBA is the pioneer and the most respected boxing organization of all the different boxing unions in the world. Spinks was adamant and demanded a third encounter but Ali refused.

After Spinks lost his second meeting with Ali, the six-foot-one Spinks’ record registered 46 bouts, 26 victories, 14 via knockouts, losing 17 and three draws. He finally retired after suffering a devastating technical knockout by his former sparring mate and heavyweight champion Larry Holmes.

Speaking of Ali, the six-foot-three Ali also known as “Louisville Lip” because of his effusive remarks before and after his fights, died on June 4, 2016 (PH time) at age of 74 years with a total of 61 fights winning 56 of it with 37 knockouts and losing five bouts.

Without a doubt, boxing fans especially the 1976 Montreal Olympic co-gold medal winners miss him, his younger brother Michael Spinks who won the middleweight division, the famous Sugar Ray Leonard who conquered the light welterweight class, Howard Davis winning the lightweight and Leo Randolph triumphing the flyweight categories. These five boxers contributed the most gold medals (34) for the U.S. team during that 1976 quadrennial meet. That was never duplicated anymore, until now.

We, too, miss Ali! Like Spinks, Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, was also an Olympian who won the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: My eye shall not spare, nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways, and your abomination will be in your midst. Then you shall know that I am the Lord who strikes. EZEKIEL 7: 9

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