Michael Spinks: An Appreciation

10.16.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - He is one of the least appreciated all-time great fighters in fistic history, at any weight. This all time great champion's career accomplishments measure up favorably to any other fighter who ever held the same title. In fact Michael Spinks never lost once in the division he ruled as undisputed champion, and this was during a time when the division may have never been more loaded with top fighter's in it's history.

Michael Spinks is the only undefeated light heavyweight champion in boxing history. Something that can't be said about Tommy Loughran, John Henry Lewis, Billy Conn, Archie Moore, Bob Foster, or Roy Jones. In 101 years of crowning light heavyweight champion's, only one of them never tasted defeat while weighing 175 pounds, Michael Spinks. Spinks was also the first reigning light heavyweight champion to challenge and defeat the reigning heavyweight champion. Something past greats Billy Conn, Archie Moore, and Bob Foster also attempted as light heavyweight champ, but failed to do.

In one fight Spinks made history and defied history. The night Michael Spinks won a 15 round unanimous decision over Larry Holmes, Holmes was 48-0. On top of that he made 20 consecutive title defenses during his seven year reign as heavyweight champion, only Joe Louis made more with 25. On September 21st 1985, Larry Holmes was one win shy of matching the record of histories only undefeated heavyweight champion, Rocky Marciano, who retired 49-0. By virtue of his upset win over Larry Holmes, a fighter who weighed 50 pounds more than any fighter he ever fought, Michael Spinks added a page to light heavyweight history and preserved a page of heavyweight history.

After defeating Holmes in a rematch, Spinks fought the once beaten Steffen Tangstad and knocked him out in the fourth round. Nine month's later Spinks took on the 6 '6" 238 lb Gerry Cooney, who's only loss was to undefeated heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. At the time, Cooney's punching power was thought to be as formidable as any heavyweight in the world, including Mike Tyson. In what could best be described as a five round clinic, Spinks stopped the favored Cooney. In his next fight Spinks fought Mike Tyson for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. Tyson who was in his prime was undefeated in 34 fights. In one round, Tyson did what no fighter ever did, beat Michael Spinks and knock him off his feet.

In a career that spanned 12 years, Spinks fought 32 times winning all but his last fight. The last 16 fights of his career were all title fights in which he went 15-1, 11-0 at light heavyweight and 4-1 at heavyweight. He is also one of only six light heavyweight champs who never lost a Light Heavyweight title fight. Michael Spinks was never hurt or knocked off his feet while campaigning as a Light Heavyweight. It wasn't until the last fight of his career that Spinks was knocked down, and it took one of the greatest punchers in heavyweight history to accomplish it. Those are some of Michael Spinks monumental accomplishments.

Spinks the fighter was complete and could do it all inside the ring. To compliment his talent and ability, Spinks had another advantage, his size. At 6' 2" Spinks was one of the biggest light heavyweight Champions in history. His fighting style is best described as being a boxer-puncher. He was a tremendous two handed puncher who could box and dictate with his jab and knew how to utilize his height and reach versus taller and shorter opponents. As he was forced to do in his Light Heavyweight unification bout with 5'' 7" WBC Champ Dwight Muhammad Qawi, and against the 6' 6" Gerry Cooney.

Michael Spinks is one of only a handful of great fighters who had the ability to take out his opponent with three different punches, needing only one to do it. He is best known for his over hand right, dubbed "The Spinks Jinx". The Spinks "Jinx" was a life taker. However, Spinks knocked out two time light heavyweight champ Marvin Johnson with one devastating left uppercut. And his left hook was every bit as formidable and devastating as his uppercut.

The word great is thrown around too freely today in my opinion. But in the case of former Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, it's the only word that accurately capsules his career. I haven't the slightest reservation saying Michael Spinks was not just a great fighter, he was an all time great fighter.

Spinks wasn't flashy, and never ranted on about how great he was. He was always in top condition and never took an opponent light. Before and after his fight's he was always respectful of his opponent, but in the ring he was a killer. He showed no mercy on a hurt opponent and fought bell-to-bell every round. Spinks was also a ring technician who if he hadn't figured out his opponents weakness and vulnerabilities before the fight, it didn't take him long during the fight.

The only negatives on Michael Spinks are, he wasn't flashy like Roy Jones, nor did he have a personality like Muhammad Ali that drew attention making it impossible for his accomplishments to be overlooked. What hurts the memory of Spinks, is losing his last fight to Mike Tyson in a convincing fashion, being stopped in one round.

Boxing fans have very short memories. Spinks was never down or stopped in his career as Light Heavyweight Champion. It took an undefeated Heavyweight Champion in his prime, one of the best two handed punchers in Boxing history to do it in his last fight.

Former Light Heavyweight Champ Roy Jones, the best Light Heavyweight champ since Spinks, was knocked out for the second straight time in his last fight by Glencoffee Johnson. Johnson was 8-9-2 in his last 19 fights, and 2-2-2 in his last 6. As a result of one Johnson right hand, a fighter not known as a big puncher, Jones was down for eight minutes. Today many writers and Boxing fans are willing to give him a pass based on his career accomplishments. Yet Michael Spinks is admonished by some for being knocked out by Mike Tyson in his prime? Go figure.

The bottom line is Michael Spinks could fight. He was an outstanding boxer who had height, reach, and power. On top of that he was strong willed and tough and took a great punch. Michael Spinks could beat his opponent boxing, slugging, or counter-punching. He was effective being the aggressor, or he could be effective by stepping back and drawing his opponent into him. As a puncher, Spinks the Light Heavyweight had dynamite in both fist.

When evaluating his career body of work, Michael Spinks is arguably the most accomplished Light Heavyweight Champion since the inception of the division in 1903. Evaluating Michael Spinks the fighter, other than looking awkward sometimes, he could do it all and had no weakness.

Today, the media and fans shower fighters with pristine undefeated records with much high praise. Michael Spinks went undefeated fighting during the deepest era in Light Heavyweight history. And he beat the real heavyweight champion to win the title, who was also undefeated. Michael Spinks is the most accomplished light heavyweight champion in history.

Article posted on 17.10.2004

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