Feature | Premium | Sep 22 2019

Michael Spinks – the good little man who beat the good big man

Michael Spinks defied logic and history to defeat heavyweight king Larry Holmes. Here he looks back on that fight and the crushing loss to Mike Tyson
Michael Spinks
USA TODAY Sports

THE chaotic heavyweight scene of the 1980s can be split into two contrasting eras of dominance. Firstly, fans and media witnessed the steady rise of Larry Holmes, “The Easton Assassin” who entered the decade as leader and spent the next four years marshalling a ragged cast of contenders who would be labelled ‘The Lost Generation’. This was a slightly unfair collective description for a number of talented but tainted competitors who swapped the alphabet trinkets with alarming frequency, while also balancing their chosen sport with numerous dramas away from the bloodthirsty audiences of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Later, Mike Tyson’s freakish emergence resonated with mainstream audiences, especially once he relieved Trevor Berbick of his WBC crown – and senses – in 1986. An angry America had a sporting superstar that inspired, outraged and fascinated them in alternating doses. Tyson’s ruthless ascent to the top of the glamour league ensured the faded division once again became a central part of the public consciousness.

Bridging this warped age of heavyweight boxing was a St Louis hero now peacefully retired in a rural Delaware community. Michael Spinks, a 1976 Olympic Gold medallist alongside his brother, Leon, was every bit as special a light-heavyweight champion as Archie Moore and Bob Foster before him, and Roy Jones Jnr in more recent times. Unfortunately, his reign at 175lbs brought only acclaim, as riches evaded him due to the lack of marquee fights that could be made at his most comfortable weight. Holmes, 48-0 and chasing one more victory to equal Rocky Marciano’s legendary record, would provide Michael Spinks with his inaugural heavyweight assignment and with only eight weeks to adjust his body to the most fearsome task in boxing, Michael Spinks gained 24lbs but still conceded almost the same amount of weight to his decorated opponent.

 

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