BOXING

Former world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks dies aged 67

Leon Spinks – who conquered Muhammad Ali in 1978 to claim the WBC and WBC titles – died following a battle with cancer on Friday.

Former world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks dies aged 67

Former world heavyweight champion and Olympic Games gold medallist Leon Spinks died at the age of 67, according to a statement from his management.

Spinks – who conquered legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in 1978 to claim the WBC and WBC titles before losing a rematch later that year – died following a battle with cancer on Friday.

Olympic gold medal winner

The American, a gold medal winner at the 1976 Montreal Games, finished his professional boxing career with a 26-17 record – including three draws and 14 knockouts.

"At the time of his passing his wife Brenda Glur Spinks was by his side. Due to COVID restrictions, only a few close friends and other family were present," The Firm PR said in a widely-circulated statement on Saturday.

"His final fight was fought with the same skill, grace and grit that had carried him through so many lifetime challenges.

"Leon fought his battle with numerous illnesses resiliently, never losing his trademark smile. Showing true Spinks determination, he never threw in the towel."

Victorious against Ali

Spinks, who made his professional debut in 1977, created history when he upstaged Ali by split decision in Las Vegas in 1978.

He won the world heavyweight belt in just his eighth professional fight – the shortest time in history – after outboxing the ageing Ali.

Spinks was the only man to take a title from Ali, though he was stripped of the belt by the WBC for refusing to defend it against Ken Norton, having instead agreed to a rematch with his legendary countryman.

Retired in 1995

Ali won the second fight via unanimous decision. Spinks had title bouts against Larry Holmes (1981) and Dwight Muhammad Qawi (1986 at cruiserweight) but lost both before retiring in 1995.