Leon Spinks Jr., who won the world heavyweight boxing championship in 1978 after defeating Muhammad Ali, died on Feb. 5. He was 67.
According to the Firm PR, Spinks died of prostate and other cancers. He was in the company of his wife, Brenda Spinks, in addition to a few other close friends and family members.
Born on July 11, 1953 in St. Louis, Mo., Spinks discovered his passion for boxing while serving in the United States Marines Corps., and he began building his reputation as a formidable opponent in the ring.
Spinks’ career in boxing began in 1974 at the amateur level, during which he won three consecutive national AAU light heavyweight championships. He then competed at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, where he won a gold medal, setting himself up for a professional career.
Spinks competed professionally as a boxer from 1977 to 1995. In what was only his eighth professional fight, Spinks upset Ali in a split decision to win the title of heavyweight champion in 1978. Seven months later, Spinks lost to Ali in a rematch. Spinks continued to fight heavyweight until the early ’80s, when he moved to the cruiserweight division. Spinks eventually retired at age 42, after losing to Fred Houpe in 1995. Overall, Spinks won 46 of his 72 professional fights.
Spinks moved to Las Vegas, Nev. in 2011, where he married his longtime companion, Brenda. In August 2017, Spinks was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame along with his brother, Michael Spinks. Spinks also appeared in several film and television projects, including playing a bouncer in the 2010 film “Risen” and being interviewed for the 2009 documentary “Facing Ali.”
“Leon became a fixture about town, always accompanied by his trademark smile,” the press release announcing Spinks’ death reads. “He loved spending time with friends and family, attending concerts and local shows, dining at local restaurants and signing autographs and memorabilia for fans at Inscriptagraphs and Field of Dreams on the Las Vegas strip.”
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