In Las Vegas, Nevada, the former WBA & WBC heavyweight champion Leon “Neon” Spinks passed away at age 67 suffering from prostate Cancer. This writer had the pleasure of meeting him just prior to his bout with Kip Kane, 15-1-1, whom he stopped in the eighth round at the Felt Forum, in New York, for the WBC Continental-Americas title, in December of 1985. Matchmaker Don Elbaum introduced me to him and he was the kind of man you wanted to give a hug to. That was Leon!
Spinks was the 178# Gold Medalist on the in this writer’s opinion all-time greatest Olympic team in 1976. On the same team was his brother Michael “Jinx” Spinks, who was the Gold Medalist at 165 and who became WBA, WBC and IBF light heavyweight and IBF heavyweight champion.
Spinks, at 6-0-1, defeated Muhammad Ali, 55-2, in his eighth fight for the WBA and WBC heavyweight title on February 15, 1978, at the Hilton Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada, by split decision. In September in the rematch before 63,350 in attendance at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, Spinks would lose his WBA title to Ali.
Spinks would go 3-1-1, after losing his title when he defeated the South American champion Bernardo Mercado, 26-2, by a ninth round stoppage at Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas, Nevada, in October of 1980, in a WBC elimination bout. He then took on WBC champion Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes, in June of 1981, at the Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan, and was stopped in the third round.
Spinks went onto win seven of his next eight fights. In March of 1986, he dropped down to cruiserweight losing to WBA champion Dwight Muhammad Qawi, 25-2-1, in the sixth round at the Lawlor Events Center, in Reno, Nevada. He would end his career with a record of 26-17-3, with 14 knockouts, in December of 1995.
As an amateur Spinks had a record of 178-7 with 133 knockouts, fighting out of his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. He was the 1975 Silver Medalist at the Pan American Games and the 1976 AAU champion prior to the Olympics. He served in the US Marines with his brother MIchael from 1973 to 1976.
From 1986 to 1993 Spinks was a professional wrestler. On March 25, 1992 Spinks won the WWA Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight title knocking out Tarzan Goto in Japan. He grossed over five million dollars during his career.
Spinks was survived by his wife Brenda, son Cory “Next Generation” Spinks, a former WBA, WBC and IBF welterweight and IBF light middleweight champion. Also, grandson Leon Spinks III, 11-3-2, super lightweight. He lost his son Leon Calvin, 2-0, who was murdered in July of 1990 at age 19.