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Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks passes away aged 67

Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, who beat legend Muhammad Ali, passes away aged 67 after five-year battle with prostate cancer

  • Former world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks has passed away at 67 
  • The American had been battling with prostate cancer for the last five years 
  • Spinks caused one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets when he beat Muhammad Ali 

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks has passed away aged 67.

The American, who beat the legend Muhammad Ali, had been battling prostate cancer for the last five years. 

Spinks’s management, The Firm PR & Marketing, said in a statement Spinks died on Friday evening 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 restrictions.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks (left) has passed away aged 67

Spinks, nicknamed Neon Leon, competed professionally from 1977 to 1995 and shot himself into stardom after just his eighth bout against Ali.

He won the undisputed heavyweight championship in 1978 by split decision against ‘The Greatest’ in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. 

Before turning professional, Spinks served in the United States Marine Corps for three years from 1973 to 1976 before going on to win boxing gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

Tributes have flooded in for the former champ, who also won medals at the World Championships and Pan American Games.

Spinks, who beat Muhammad Ali , had been battling prostate cancer for the last five years

Spinks, who beat Muhammad Ali , had been battling prostate cancer for the last five years

Spinks pictured on February 15 1978 punching heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in the nose during their title fight at Las Vegas

Spinks pictured on February 15 1978 punching heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in the nose during their title fight at Las Vegas

President of the World Boxing Council Mauricio Sulaiman tweeted: ‘Rest in peace, Leon Spinks.

‘Olympic medalist, Pan American medalist, and of course, WBC heavyweight champion.’

WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney tweeted: ‘RIP Leon Spinks.’ 

Boxing manager Lou DiBella tweeted: ‘Rest In Peace, Neon Leon, a heavyweight champion and a nice man. Condolences to Michael and the Spinks family. Rest In Peace and Power, Leon Spinks.’

Tributes have flooded in for the former champ, who was nicknamed 'Neon Leon'

Tributes have flooded in for the former champ, who was nicknamed ‘Neon Leon’ 

He retired in 1995 with 26 wins, 17 defeats and three draws and tried his hand at wrestling

He retired in 1995 with 26 wins, 17 defeats and three draws and tried his hand at wrestling

Just seven months after beating Ali, Spinks lost his WBC title for facing him again in an unlicensed bout in which he lost by unanimous decision. 

His career quickly went downhill following his loss in the rematch to Ali, but he managed to challenge for two more championship belts before he hung up his gloves in 1995.

He fought for the WBC heavyweight belt once more, losing to Larry Holmes by a third round knockout, and five years later tried for the WBA cruiserweight title against Dwight Muhammad Qawi, losing by knockout in the sixth round.

He retired with a record 26 wins, 17 defeats and three draws. 

‘Neon Leon’ also had a brief career in wrestling during the 1990s as his boxing career came to an end.  

Spinks celebrates as his entourage holds him aloft after his 15-round split decision victory over world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali

Spinks celebrates as his entourage holds him aloft after his 15-round split decision victory over world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali

Spinks caused one of boxing's biggest ever upsets when he beat Muhammad Ali in the fight

Spinks caused one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets when he beat Muhammad Ali in the fight

Spinks was later inducted into Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017, but his boxing legacy lived on through one of his sons Cory who also enjoyed success inside the ring, becoming undisputed welterweight champion.

His other son Leon Calvin was tragically shot dead in 1990 while travelling to his girlfriend’s in East St. Louis.

The Firm’s statement said: ‘Leon fought his battle with numerous illnesses resiliently, never losing his trademark smile. Showing true Spinks determination, he never threw in the towel.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk