Celebrating Black History Month: Leon and Michael Spinks

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No brothers from the United States have had greater success boxing than Leon and Michael Spinks. They were worlds apart in personality and demeanor, but when it came to the ring, they were shooting stars—each exploding onto the scene with gold medals in the 1976 Olympics: Leon at 178 pounds, and Michael at 165.

Leon Spinks-Muhammad Ali

Leon Spinks takes on Muhammad Ali during their rematch September 15, 1978, at the Louisiana Superdome.

They would both become world champions as professionals, although their careers were vastly different.

After just eight professional fights, Leon Spinks found himself across the ring from Muhammad Ali to vie for the heavyweight championship in Las Vegas in 1978.

And he did the one thing no other fighter can claim: He took a title from Ali in the ring, winning a 15-round decision.

It would prove to be the high point of Spinks’ career. Ali walked away the winner seven months later in the rematch in New Orleans.

It took three years for Leon to get another title shot, against Larry Holmes in 1981. Again, he came up short.

A drop to 200 pounds didn’t help, and Leon would eventually wind up his career in 1995 at 26-17-3.

Michael Spinks and Larry Holmes

Michael Spinks fights Larry Holmes in Las Vegas for the first time in September 1985.

Michael Spinks took a more carefully considered approach to his career.

He reigned as the undisputed 175-pound champ from 1983-85 before stepping up to challenge Holmes, who was 48-0 entering the fight.

Michael did what his brother couldn’t, winning a 15-round unanimous decision in ’85, then the rematch early in ’86.

Michael Spinks held the title until his final fight, a devastating 90-second knockout in 1988 courtesy of Mike Tyson, finishing his career with a record of 31-1.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

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