Record-breaking heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, 67, passes away

Tributes poured in on Saturday night after news broke of the passing of the fastest-ever heavyweight champion in history, Leon Spinks.

The man who defeated the great Muhammad Ali in just his eighth fight – a record unbroken until this day, lost a battle with cancer at 67.

Spinks, an Olympic gold medalist in 1976 at light-heavyweight, took the undisputed crown from Ali in their 1977 bout.

Ali was a massive favorite at the time and super-confident in victory despite his advanced years. Spinks stunningly claimed a split decision.

‘Neon’ Leon was subsequently stripped of one of his title versions for not fighting mandatory Ken Norton. Ali then gained his revenge seven months later.

Spinks struggled to hit the heights he found early on during his later career. He retired in 1995 with a 26-17-3 record.

Former opponent Larry Holmes led the nods to Spinks.

The man who stopped him in three rounds in his only other world heavyweight title fight gave respect where it was due.

“You gave me a hell of a fight, but you were a good guy. You lived your life the way you wanted, and it was a good one. I pray you Rest In Peace,” said Holmes.

Promoters Top Rank added: “Top Rank joins the boxing community in mourning Leon Spinks’ passing.

“A true legend, who pulled off one of the greatest Heavyweight upsets of all time in 1978.”

Leon Spinks

WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman stated: “Rest in peace, Leon Spinks.

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

Further tributes from many of the boxing fraternity hailed Spinks and his achievements.


“Rest In Peace, Leon Spinks. Condolences to the Spinks family.” – respected trainer Freddie Roach.

“RIP, Champ. Legend of the ring.” – former world title challenger Ashley Theophane.

“My sincere condolences to the Spinks family R.I.P. Leon Spinks.” – ex-undisputed champion and pound-for-pound number one Antonio Tarver.

“May you Rest In Eternal Peace Leon Spinks.” – seven-weight women’s champion Amanda Serrano.

“RIP Leon Spinks. I spent a crazy week w/ him (Hilton Head, NYC, Atlanta) after he upset Ali in Vegas, before their rematch (dominated by Ali) in New Orleans.

“He never could quite live up to expectations that skyrocketed between those fights. But sure was fun while it lasted.” – US TV host Skip Bayless.

WBN would like to offer our condolences to the Spinks family at this time.

‘Neon’ Leon Spinks (1953 – 2021).

WBN Editor Phil has over ten years of boxing news experience. Follow WBN on Twitter @WorldBoxingNews.