32 years ago today one of heavyweight boxing’s longest reigns as world champion came to a controversial end, as light-heavyweight ruler Michael Spinks moved up in weight and challenged heavyweight king Larry Holmes. Meeting at The Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, 35-year-old Holmes and 29-year-old Spinks put on a fight that was later called the 1985 upset of the year.
Most experts felt the much bigger and harder-hitting heavyweight champion, who was making the twenty-first defence of his championship (alphabet-wise only the IBF belt was on the line, Holmes having fought for the new organisation since late 1984, but no-one doubted Homes status as the true heavyweight champion), would be able to see off Spinks, despite the light-heavyweight ruler being the younger, fresher and faster man. No fighter in history had been able to move up from being the light-heavyweight champion and grab the heavyweight championship, and the odds said Spinks would not change things.
Indeed, there was a real sense of boxing history in the air that September night in 1985; for if Holmes won he’d have gone 49-0 as a pro – thus tying the beloved Rocky Marciano’s legendary numbers. But it was Spinks, with his “Jinx” that wound up going into the record books, as he shocked Holmes and the odds by pulling off a highly controversial 15-round unanimous decision victory. There were no knockdowns in the fight and there never looked like being a KO either way, but the fight was fought at a good pace and it was engrossing.