Perkins began to work. While the stitching was in progress, Al Haymon came in and walked over to Paulie. Perkins finished his work. Paulie looked at the people gathered around him. I can still beat a lot of guys, but I want to be more than the pesky crafty guy who comes up short in big fights. When people talk about great fighters, I got to share a night with those guys in front of a big crowd, and it was really cool.
Whether I won the fight or lost the fight, I had some cool experiences. Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser rcn. A friend inquired if I happened to know the odds on the first Ali-Spinks fight. Upsets come in two flavors. One flavor is empirical.
I have always loved weaving empirical odds into a story because odds cut right to the chase, quantifying the magnitude of an upset. The other kind of upset is subjective. Some upsets are positively mind-blowing among the population at large, but yet somewhat pedestrian among hard-core gamblers who are in action every day. The bigger the event, the bigger the shock factor when a heavy underdog springs an upset. He had been held to a draw by Minnesota journeyman Scott LeDoux in his first round bout and his effort in his most recent fight with Alfio Righetti was unexceptional.
Although he was the younger man by 12 years, the conventional wisdom was that he would fade late because he was still adjusting to the pro game which places a premium on stamina. In an amateur career that reportedly consisted of fights, Leon was never required to fight more than three rounds. Among those favoring Ali was Rollie Schwartz, the team manager of the U. Olympic team. Schwartz noted that Leon, unlike his younger brother Michael, had discipline issues as an amateur. Despite giving away a few of the early rounds, Ali was clearly in front after 10 frames.
But the upstart would prove to have more fuel in his tank. Round 14 was a big round for Spinks. He hurt Ali with a big left hook midway through the stanza and out-punched the worried champion as they exchanged combinations as the round was drawing to a close. As the boxers awaited the bell for the final round, the tension was thick. Would the great Muhammad Ali summon up some reservoir of strength and pull the fight out of the fire as he had done so often in the past?
Or would Spinks maintain his advantage now that the momentum had shifted? The final round was a doozy and almost to a man, everyone in the packed auditorium remained standing as the round played out amidst a great clamor. With his mother Kay looking on, clutching tight to her Bible, Leon rocked Ali in the final seconds, sending him stumbling back to his corner.
All three judges gave Spinks each of the last three rounds and two of them had Spinks the winner. Ali concurred with the majority, conceding that he was fairly beaten. Obviously, it would have improved his final record, but as New York Times scribe Dave Anderson astutely noted, it would not have redounded well to him at all.
In previous fights, Ali had won disputed decisions over Ken Norton and Jimmy Young and struggled to put away Earnie Shavers while winning a unanimous decision by scores , , that struck many as too wide. Had he been given the decision over Spinks, it would have been widely assailed as a heist and brought more scrutiny to those earlier fights plus denying him the opportunity to make history as the first three-time heavyweight champion.
Only two hotels on the Strip had sports betting parlors. The Hilton, which opened as the International and is now called the Westgate, would come to have the most prominent sports book in the city, the SuperBook, but in it had no book whatsoever. This was largely true, but there were a few exceptions. LA Times sportswriter Jim Murray came up with another of his splendid metaphors when he wrote that Ali vs.
Spinks held out about as much intrigue as the main course of a Thanksgiving dinner. How could he take Leon seriously after just knocking out Superman in the pages of an oversized DC comic book? However, the betting line was out of whack with the shock meter. It was a stunning upset. That was the highlight of a career that was otherwise a big disappointment but, my goodness, what a highlight it was. Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel.
No one could ever confuse former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, who on Friday night finally succumbed to the multiple cancers that for several years had been slowly devouring his internal organs, with handsome film star Robert Redford. It is one thing to fulfill a dream few thought possible. It is quite another, once the dream becomes reality, to enjoy the tsunami of attention that can make a sudden and unprepared star a sort of Cinderella in reverse.
In the final scene, he slips out of the victory party to be alone with his thoughts. Leon Spinks, who someday would shock the world by upsetting the great Muhammad Ali, launched his longest-of-long-shots plan to become heavyweight champion when, at age 13 and constantly picked on by older boys in St. The oldest of seven kids six sons and a daughter raised by his mother Kay after the father had left home, Leon proved a quick study in the pugilistic arts, if not academically.
A dropout midway through his junior year of high school, he became a father at 17, enlisted in the Marine Corps at 19, and by the time his service hitch ended had won of amateur bouts and was fast-tracked for eventual success as a pro.
He was a bronze medalist at the inaugural World Championships, a silver medalist at the Pan American Games and then a light heavyweight gold medalist at the Montreal Olympics, at which his younger brother Michael also took gold as a middleweight.
In , Michael, who would go on to win both light heavyweight and heavyweight titles as a pro, recalled how he frequently got the worst of it in sparring sessions with his older brother, until the day when he proved to himself that he at least had significantly narrowed the gap between them. We pulled them on and went at it for three rounds. You have to understand, Leon had always beaten the dog out of me. He always beat the dog out of everybody. Leon was the man in those days.
But he was trying to help me, in his own way. I got you. We never sparred again. Looking back, that might have been my proudest moment in boxing. I figured if I could do that well against Leon, I could hold my own against anybody. From that point on, I was a completely different fighter.
I had confidence in myself. Maybe Michael was even as confident in his ring abilities as was Leon, who wangled a lucrative contract with Top Rank after the Montreal Olympiad while Michael went back to his old job as a janitor at a St.
For Michael, who later joined Leon in the Top Rank fold, his star turn as a pro would come later. Virtually no one gave Leon much chance to even be competitive, much less win, but the year-old underdog believed he had a fight plan to get the job done, one previously authored against Ali by Joe Frazier.
Then I learned the pressure of being champion. The shocking split decision for Spinks, accomplished before just 5, paying spectators, did not appreciably diminish the star power of Ali, but it made the victor an instant sensation.
It also changed his life and career in ways he could not have anticipated, both good and, even more obviously as it turned out, bad. In quick order, the WBC stripped Spinks of its version of the title for declining to fulfill a mandatory defense against Ken Norton in favor of a much-better-paying, much-higher-visibility rematch with Ali, who was determined not to make the same mistakes he had made the first time around. The do-over was scheduled for Sept. It was hoopla to an extent that Ali, as much as any boxer ever, could handle in stride.
Not so for Spinks, who even before arriving at the fight site had demonstrated that he was crumbling under the demands of his newfound notoriety. The late Butch Lewis , who promoted both Spinks brothers, recalled how Leon disappeared for days at a time when he should have been in the gym and focusing on the task at hand. Rumors flew that he was pub-crawling not in the comparative safety of the French Quarter, but in dives in crime-infested neighborhoods that even the local police were hesitant to go into.
There was nothing you could do about it. I had no more control of the guy. I was useless. All I could do was get the hell out of there. The unanimous decision for Ali — by margins of and twice in rounds — was a foregone conclusion, and pretty much evident to everyone early on. He was drunk about every night down here. He is a simple guy. Nor did Leon slip away from the fight game, never to be seen or heard from again; he did get another shot at the heavyweight title, losing on a third-round TKO to Larry Holmes on June 12, , and then on a sixth-round stoppage to WBA cruiserweight ruler Dwight Muhammad Qawi on March 22, His final bout, an eight-round points loss to Fred Houpe on Dec.
Michael, on the other hand, was 21 as a pro, along the way becoming a multimillionaire and first-ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in After his boxing career ended, Leon lingered on the fringes of combat sports. For someone who had outhustled and defeated a legend like Ali, it had to hurt his fans to see him go into a ring with a wrestler named the Mighty Wojo who lifted him up and threw him onto a cold concrete floor.
I won a gold medal. I won the heavyweight title. I reached as high a point in sports as I could. I was trying to take care of my business and box, too. It was my downfall. When I did start to trust people, they took advantage of me.
They had me running in the fast lane. She was by his side when he passed away, but because of COVID restrictions only a few close friends and family members — including his son Cory, who won versions of the welterweight and junior middleweight title — were present. He remained upbeat even as his medical issues worsened. In he suffered intestinal damage and was hospitalized after swallowing a piece of chicken bone, which led to multiple surgeries. But he fought as he could, for as long as he could, and that is in and of itself a testament to what had once made him special.
Rest in peace, Leon. So many fighters, good ones, have never known the exhilaration of being an Olympic gold medalist, or a heavyweight champion of the world. A New Orleans native, Bernard Fernandez retired in after a year career as a newspaper sports writer, the last 28 years with the Philadelphia Daily News. In December of , Fernandez was accorded the highest honor for a boxing writer when he was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the Class of Leon Spinks, who forged one of the most memorable upsets in the history of boxing when he outpointed Muhammad Ali on Feb.
A gold medal winner at the Montreal Olympics along with his younger brother Michael, a fellow Marine who would also become a world heavyweight champion, Leon Spinks had only seven pro fights under his belt when he met Ali at the Las Vegas Hilton. With his mother rooting him on, Spinks, with his awkward, herky-jerky style, won a round split decision that should have been unanimous. But he proved to be one-trick pony. Ali-Spinks I played to an announced crowd of 5, Garcia's record may be unblemished on paper, but two of his last three fights — against Lamont Peterson and Mauricio Herrera — have come by way of controversial majority decisions.
Also, his second-round knockout over Rod Salka last August failed to impress the boxing community, which mocked the quality of competition Garcia faced that night in Brooklyn. So, despite Garcia's status as a huge favorite Saturday night, plenty of observers doubt his worthiness as a superstar. Nine of his past 10 opponents were or had been world champions. Said Garcia, "In the sport of boxing, you're going to have your critics no matter what you do, so you might as well ignore them and focus on training hard and fighting to win.
I think I've proven what I can do. I go out and fight hard and win. And I do win. The year-old, past-his-prime Malignaggi , 7 KOs has been out of competition since April — when he lost to Shawn Porter via fourth-round TKO — and has been largely focused on his broadcasting career he's an excellent analyst, by the way. The Brooklyn native, however, will have the support of the Barclays Center crowd.
A win over Garcia would be the biggest of Malignaggi's career. He's faced stout competition, to be sure, with losses to Miguel Cotto June '06 , Ricky Hatton November '08 , Juan Diaz a controversial unanimous decision in October '09 that he avenged in December of the same year , Amir Kahn May '10 , Adrien Broner via disputed split decision in June '13 and, as mentioned above, Porter.
In addition Diaz, Malignaggi's most impressive wins have been against Judah and Vyacheslav Senchenko.
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