Leon Spinks Gone, But Never Forgotten

Leon Spinks a fallen warrior, thanks for the memories

Leon Spinks
Leon Spinks

Leon Spinks: a fallen warrior, thanks for the memories

The boxing community got hit hard today when news surfaced that former undisputed heavyweight champion “Neon” Leon Spinks passed away. Some will mostly remember him for one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, defeating Muhammad Ali with only having eight professional fights back in 1978. Furthermore, Neon remains the only man to have ever beaten Ali for a world championship. Others may recognize him from notorious pictures with a gap-tooth smile that added to his charismatic character.

Leon Spinks vs Muhammad Ali in 1978
Leon Spinks vs Muhammad Ali in 1978


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, boxing ran deep in the Spinks family tree. Neon is the brother of former two-divisional champion Michael Spinks. Before becoming a professional fighter, he also served in the United States Marine Corps.

Spinks enjoyed amateur success, winning a Bronze medal in 1974 and Silver in 1975 during both the Pan American and World championships. Before capturing a gold medal in the 1976 Olympic game as a light-heavyweight.

Upon losing to Ali in their rematch seven months later, he still was able to work his way back up to challenge for the heavyweight crown against Hall of Fame boxer Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes in 1981. The tenacious St. Louis fighter was giving Holmes trouble before being knocked down in the third round. He got back up and showed tremendous heart by refusing to go down while taking a beating against the ropes before the corner finally threw in the towel.

The former champion would bounce back, winning seven of the next eight fights, before going down in weight to challenge the WBA Cruiserweight champion Dwight Muhammed Qawi in 1986. This fight was an all-out war as they fought in a phonebooth throughout the bout. One of the most memorable moments of the fight came in round four when the elusive Qawi stood in front of the former champion with his hands down, avoiding six punches in a row.

Spinks again was taking a beating against the ropes. He refused to go down and kept fighting back. However, taking an unanswered six-punch barrage forced legendary referee Mills Lane to stop the fight in the sixth round.


His career was not the same after the Qawi bout. It is worth noting he got to see his son, Corey Spinks, enjoy huge success as a professional. Corey won the undisputed welterweight crown against Zab “Super” Judah back in 2004. In addition, he became a two-time IBF Middleweight champion in both 2006 and 2009.

In 2017, Leon Spinks got inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame alongside his brother, bringing everything full circle for the legendary former champion.

Spinks, forever a fighter, would enter a long battle with cancer before finally passing away at 67 years old, leaving behind his loving family and the entire boxing world.

As word of his passing hits hard, there are several R.I.P. tweets trending throughout the community, and former champion Holmes on social media paid his respects for a fallen brother of the squared circle.

Larry Holmes bids Leon Spinks farewell
Larry Holmes bids Leon Spinks farewell

3kingsboxing want to send our condolences to the entire Spinks family.

By: Garrisson Bland

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Garrisson Bland - Head of Public Relations/Senior Journalist. Garrisson is the Head of Public relations for 3kingsboxing.com as well as a senior writer. He is also the host of YouTube boxing show "Truth And Facts Sports Talk."