Former undisputed world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks has died, aged 67.
Spinks, who famously upset Muhammad Ali in February 1978 in just his eighth professional fight, was plagued by health issues in his later years and was diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer in 2019.
Spinks’s management, The Firm PR & Marketing, said in a statement the former US Marine died on Friday evening in Henderson, Nevada, with his wife Brenda Glur Spinks by his side, and with “only a few close friends and other family” allowed to be present due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Leon fought his battle with numerous illnesses resiliently, never losing his trademark smile. Showing true Spinks determination, he never threw in the towel,” the statement said.
“His final fight was fought with the same skill, grace and grit that had carried him through so many lifetime challenges.”
Spinks won gold at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal then rose to greater prominence a little more than 18 months later, given the nod via split decision to stun Ali and claim the WBC, WBA and lineal heavyweight titles.
In one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport, Spinks defied his 10-1 underdog odds with bookmakers to prevail after 15 rounds, winning 145-140 and 144-141 on two scorecards while a third went in favour of Ali 143-142.
His reign lasted exactly seven months as a sharper and fitter Ali gained revenge in an immediate rematch in September 1978, becoming the first ever three-time lineal heavyweight champion after a wide points win.
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