The story of Leon Spinks, the man who defeated the world’s greatest boxer in 1978

Farida Dawkins July 11, 2018
Muhammad Ali Versus Leon Spinks...Zimbio

Cruiserweight and later Heavyweight Leon Spinks is known for winning the latter title after beating Muhammad Ali in 1978.  He is known for his wide toothy grin which was caused by losing two then later four of his front teeth.

Spinks would go on to win several medals while occupying the Light Heavyweight sector, which included the 1975 Pan American Games and the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The story of Leon Spinks, the man who defeated the world's greatest boxer in 1978

Autographed photo of Leon “Neon” Spinks…Sports Memorabilia

From 1973 to 1976, Spinks served in the United States Marine Corps.

Spinks was born on July 11, 1953, in Saint Louis, Missouri.  His boxing career began on January 15, 1977, in a Las Vegas match with Bob Smith – in which he won.

While still being in the beginning stages of his career, on February 15, 1978, Spinks beat Muhammed Ali in a 15-round fight.

On September 15, 1978, Spinks and Ali battled once again, this time Ali won. Ali regained his World Boxing Council (WBC) title.

After 1981, Spinks began competing in the Cruiserweight division.  In his position as a Cruiserweight, he beat Ivy Brown and Jesse Burnett.

In 1985, Spinks and his brother, Michael Spinks both defeated Larry Holmes. This made them the first brothers to hold the title of heavyweight championships.  The Klitschko brothers later took the title.

In 1986, Spinks garnered his last opportunity to win a championship – the WBA Cruiserweight.  He fought against Dwight Muhammad Qawi.  Spinks lost by a TKO.

Spinks continued his career until 1995. In 1992, Spinks joined Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling.  1992 was the year Spinks earned a title in boxing and wrestling simultaneously. 1995 marked his last year as a boxer.

In 2012, Spinks was diagnosed with shrinkage of the brain, a side effect of his boxing career.

Spinks keeps a relatively quiet life apart from appearing in a 2009 documentary detailing his win against Ali called Facing Ali and being inducted in the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in August 2017.

Spinks lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his wife.

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: July 11, 2018


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