Former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks dies at 67

Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, works out at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami on Jan. 13, 1987. (photo by Tim Chapman)

Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, best known for his title-fight upset over Muhammad Ali in 1978, died Friday night. He was 67.

Spinks reportedly had been battling prostate cancer for five years, with family members requesting prayers via social media back in December when he appeared to be battling for his life.

Spinks reportedly had other health issues this decade, including a 2012 diagnosis of brain shrinkage that doctors believed was due to blows he absorbed in his career. He also endured abdominal problems in 2014 that led to multiple surgeries.

Spinks recorded one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he defeated the legendary Ali in a 15-round split decision in February 1978 in Las Vegas. It was only his eighth bout as professional.

Ali won a unanimous 15-round decision in a rematch later in the year, while Spinks’ career careened downhill and he finished with a 26-17-3 record with 14 knockouts.

Spinks also won a gold medal as a light heavyweight in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He is a member of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.

Spinks’ brother, Michael Spinks, went 31-1 in his boxing career. Michael Spinks retired after suffering a first-round knockout at the hands of Mike Tyson in 1988.

Leon Spinks is survived by his wife, Brenda, son, Cory, as well as his brother. Another son, 19-year-old Leon Calvin, was shot to death in 2017 in East St. Louis, Ill.

–Field Level Media