Throughout his life, Leon Spinks lived through the highs and the lows. A gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, later becoming the undisputed heavyweight champ after upsetting the legendary Muhammad Ali in 1978. After losing a rematch with Ali, there were 16 more losses, the murder of his son, Leon Calvin in 1990, and numerous health issues.
Anytime the name Leon Spinks was mentioned, people would smile at the memory of one of the biggest upsets in sports. They would also grin at the thought of Spinks’ smiling face on that famous Sports Illustrated cover. A hooded Leon with his missing front teeth.
Leon “Neon” Spinks passed away on Friday at the age of 67, and the memory of the night of February 15, 1978 was relived again. When Leon showed up to the “Ring 8” Christmas party over a decade ago, everybody wanted a photo with him. I approached him and complimented him on his pearly-whites. Spinks shared with me that they cost him a fortune. We talked about each other’s dental coverage, and he also reminisced of how he lost his two fronts. He was punched in the face competing in an early bout while he was in the U.S. Marines. The missing teeth never bothered him, as he viewed it as a battle scar.
I also hounded him for the cap that he was wearing. The cap was custom made and identified who he was, like he really needed verification. After constant pleading to the point where Leon was getting agitated, he wouldn’t give in. Leon walked away with his cap and I walked away with my two front teeth intact.
Spinks grandson, Leon Spinks III is currently active as a Super Light Weight. Hopefully he’ll add another championship to the family tree like his uncle, Cory, and his great uncle, Michael. Like the man he upset for the title, Leon knew how to turn on the charm. May he Rest in Peace for eternity.