- NAME: Leon Spinks
- OCCUPATION: Boxer
- BIRTH DATE: July 11, 1953 (Age: 60)
- Did You Know?: In 1976 in Montreal, African-American boxers Michael and Leon Spinks became the first brothers in Olympic history to both win gold medals at the same Summer Games.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: St. Louis, Missouri
- Full Name: Leon Spinks
- Nickname: Neon Leon
- ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
Best Known For
American boxer Leon Spinks won an Olympic gold medal in 1976 and beat Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship in 1978.
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But the rematch did not go like the earlier fight. For the September 15, 1978, matchup in New Orleans, the 36-year-old Ali showed up in top shape and beat Spinks in a 15-round unanimous decision.
For Spinks, there were other losses that came outside the ring. Still undisciplined, the former champion clouded his training with drugs and alcohol. Ultimately,
he sputtered away an estimated $5 million in winnings.
Spinks initially retired in 1988 and took a job as greeter at National Football League coach Mike Ditka's restaurant in Chicago. Financial problems forced his return to the ring in 1991, but he was a shell of the fighter who had once dethroned Ali. Finally, in 1995, a weathered and beaten Spinks hung up his gloves for good with a professional record of 26 wins, 17 losses and three draws.
Spinks's monetary troubles continued after his final retirement. For a period, the former champ was homeless and living in a shelter. He later found work as a weekend custodian at the YMCA in Columbus, Nebraska, while batting the onset of dementia.
Three of Spinks's sons have followed him into the ring, including his youngest, Cory, who was born just days after his father's upset of Ali and went on to become a light-middleweight and welterweight champion.
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Boxing was first introduced as an Olympic event at the 1904 Summer Olympics. Since then, the Games have introduced us to future boxing legends. In 1960, boxer Muhammad Ali won a spot on the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, returning home that year with a gold medal. At the 1976 Olympics, Sugar Ray Leonard won the gold medal in light-waterweight boxing, with the heavyweight title awarded to Leon Spinks. These men join the group of fighters, from George Foreman to Floyd Mayweather, who have made history in their run for Olympic Gold. Biography looks at some of the hardest hitters in Olympic boxing history.
Olympic Boxers 10 people in this group
Who was the first African-American boxing champ? How about World Cycling champ? Who was the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal? What year did Jackie Robinson break baseball's color barrier? Who was Althea Gibson and what first did she achieve? Detail our collection of pioneering African-American athletes for the answers to these and many more questions, and explore our African-American Firsts: Athletes photos gallery.
African-American Firsts: Athletes 37 people in this group
Browse our collection of African-American Firsts: Awards & Honors, including Oprah Winfrey, who became the first recipient of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002; Floyd Patterson; the youngest heavyweight champion in history and the first heavyweight to regain his title following a loss; Shani Davis, who became the first black athlete at the Winter Olympics to win a gold medal in an individual sport in 2006; and Henry Armstrong, who became the first boxer to hold three different weight division titles at the same time in 1938. Explore full biographies, photo galleries, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
African-American Firsts: Awards & Honors 43 people in this group