Michael “The Jinx” Spinks!
Michael Spinks (born July 13, 1956)[a] is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1977 to 1988. He held world championships in two weight classes, including the undisputed light heavyweight title from 1983 to 1985, and the lineal heavyweight title from 1985 to 1988. As an amateur he won a gold medal in the middleweight division at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
Nicknamed “Jinx”, which spawned the nickname of his straight right hand, “The Spinks Jinx”, Spinks is the brother of former world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, and uncle of Cory Spinks, a former welterweight and light middleweight champion.
After a successful amateur career, which culminated in his Olympic gold medal win, Spinks went undefeated in his first 31 professional fights, beating Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Marvin Johnson and Eddie Davis en route to becoming the undisputed light heavyweight champion. After defending the title against 10 different fighters, Spinks moved up to heavyweight, and as an underdog defeated long-reigning IBF heavyweight champion Larry Holmes (whose own 48-0 record up to that point was one victory short of tying Rocky Marciano‘s 49-0 unblemished scorecard); in doing so, Spinks became the first reigning light heavyweight world champion to win the heavyweight title. In his final fight, Spinks was knocked out by Mike Tyson in 91 seconds, the only defeat of his professional career.
Spinks has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. The International Boxing Research Organization and BoxRec rank Spinks among the 10 greatest light heavyweights of all time.
Spinks won the 1974 156-pound Golden Gloves Light Middleweight Championship by defeating Wilber Cameron in Denver, Colorado and then took the Silver Medal in the National AAU 165-pound Championship Competition in 1975, losing in three rounds to Tom Sullivan in Shreveport, Louisiana. He rebounded to take the 1976 National Golden Gloves Middleweight championship with a three-round victory over Lamont Kirkland in Miami, Florida, and that same year captured the United States Olympic Trials Middleweight Championship by defeating Keith Broom in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Spinks benefited from a favorable draw. Due to a bye and two wins by walkover, he was only required to box two opponents to win the gold medal in the middleweight division. He went on to defeat the Soviet Union‘s Rufat Riskiyev in the final.
Spinks then turned professional with a win over Eddie Benson, knocking him out in one round on April 17, 1977 in Las Vegas. With that, Spinks began a 31 fight winning streak that would almost extend to the end of his career. After four more wins, Spinks finished ’77 with the first fight that began a gradual ascent in opposition quality: an eight-round decision over Gary Summerhays, a popular young boxer of the time.
In 1978, Spinks won two fights, including an eight-round decision over former world Middleweight title challenger Tom Bethea, in the same undercard where his brother Leon dethroned Ali as world Heavyweight champion in Las Vegas.
1979 saw Spinks get less than three minutes of boxing action inside a ring, with his only fight ending in a first round knockout of Marc Hans, but in 1980, Spinks took his ascent towards the top to another level, when he beat future IBF super-middleweight champion Murray Sutherland, David Conteh, and fringe contenders Ramon Ronquillo and Alvaro Yaqui Lopez (who challenged for a world title four times). Of his five wins that year, three came by knockout, Sutherland and Johnny Wilburn being the only ones who lasted the distance.
Spinks is the rare top fighter who left the sport with both money and his health and never returned to the ring. Aside from a rare event honoring him and occasionally attending fights, Spinks has largely remained off the boxing scene and out of the public eye. Ken Hissner reported that, “In October 2007 he was introduced into the ring at the Legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. He seemed quite at home in the ring waving and talking to the fans.”
The former champion lives privately in a seven-bedroom house, not including the guest house, on a five-acre spread outside Wilmington, Delaware. However, he has been known for visiting schools—carrying his gold medal and four title belts—where he tells kids to pursue their dreams. “Most of the kids don’t have a clue who I am,” he says, “but they listen when they see all the gold.”