Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, who beat Muhammad Ali in 1978, died on Friday. The world champion, 67, was battling prostrate and other cancers. Spinks was hospitalized in December last year at Las Vegas after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He lost a five-year battle with the illness with his wife, Brenda Spinks, by his side, according to a press release from The Firm PR. A few of his close friends and other family members were also present by his side when he died.
The unheralded American boxer was only 24 with just seven professional bouts before meeting Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time. In the historical match, he defeated Muhammad Ali in a split decision, which is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in professional boxing history. Victory over Muhammad Ali was the peak of Spinks' professional boxing career as he was the only man to snatch a title from the greatest boxer in the ring.
"His final fight was fought with the same skill, grace and grit that had carried him through so many lifetime challenges," The Firm PR told Las Vegas television station KVVU. Leon Spinks recorded 26-17 in his boxing career with 14 knockouts and three draws. However, he couldn't recapture the fame that came early during his career in one of the most shocking upsets in the history of professional boxing.
Spinks, who had a drinking problem, won the light heavyweight division at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal where he defeated Sixto Soria of Cuba in an upset to clinch the gold among other five U.S. fighters. Spinks grabbed much attention with his early fights but was hardly spectacular after turning pro. He won six out of the sever early fights in his career but later struggled to recapture fame.
Video: The Historic Boxing Moment of Leon Spinks
Born in July in 1953 in Missouri, Spinks was raised in poverty along with his brother Michael. Both brothers made their way into the boxing ring and becoming top amateurs, culminating in the 1976 Olympics where Leon won a gold medal for light heavyweight while Michael clinched gold for the middleweight.