How good was former heavyweight belt-holder Pinklon Thomas? Could “Pinky” even have had it in him to become a great of the sport, of the heavyweight division? Thomas, who worked for a time with the legendary, all-knowing Angelo Dundee, seemed set for something special – “him, in the right frame of mind; him, in the best of condition, is the best heavyweight out there,” Angie once stated – until he fell into the cavernous drugs trap that engulfed so many fighters, especially heavyweights, in that troubled decade that was the 1980s.
Let’s take a look back at Pinklon’s pro career here:
A pro in the late summer of 1978, Thomas romped to his first 20 wins, before he was held to a January 1983 draw by South African Gerrie Coetzee. Less than two years after this minor setback, Pinklon was champ, as in WBC heavyweight champ. With his natural athleticism, his good side-to-side movement, his fine left jab, his solid chin and his underrated punching power, Thomas upset and dethroned Tim Witherspoon to snatch the belt in ’84. A retention followed, a too-long ten months later, as Thomas stopped the dangerous Mike Weaver, a former champ, in eight-rounds. A certain Mike Tyson was somewhat impressed with Thomas’ performance, later stating how he saw Thomas “take Weaver’s shots.”
These two would of course meet soon enough.
But Thomas, by now more interested in what was to be a short-lived music career, was himself upset in March of ’86, with the raw and rugged, far less-skilled Trevor Berbick out-muscling him on his way to a close 12-round decision. Who knows what Dundee thought about the fact that “Pink,” another heavyweight champ of his, also met defeat at the hands of the pesky Berbick, the way Muhammad Ali had in his ill-advised final fight.
For Thomas it was back to the drawing board. There were three comeback wins post the Berbick disaster that should never have happened, before the 6’3,” superbly proportioned former champ was chucked in with the rampaging, at his (short) peak Tyson. Pinklon managed to bag a round or two, his jab still serving him reasonably well, but Tyson’s raw aggression would not be denied.
The knockdown/knockout in the sixth-round was painfully hard, so hard and violent that Thomas busted his shoulder as he hit down. Tyson, a notable student of the game, later said he had scored the best, most important win of his then 26-month pro career.
Thomas fought on, or tried to – amid stories of how the man who had, at a young age battled drug addiction, was now back on the hard stuff – and he was fed to a cruiserweight/cum heavyweight named Evander Holyfield. It was another sad night for Pinklon. But there was worse to come. In 1990, future champ Riddick Bowe used Thomas as target practice, while in 1991, new star Tommy Morrison shellacked the former champ for three-minutes before staying sat on the stool was Pinklon’s sole option.
Still Thomas boxed on; losing only the thirteenth and final bout of his leading-to-nowhere comeback. Finally retiring in 1993, with a still-respectable 43-7-1(34) ledger, Thomas today serves as a reminder of the lethal pitfalls that exist for any fighter.
How good was Pinklon Thomas? He was very good, yet not strong enough to stay on the right path – along with Berbick, Tony Tucker, Tony Tubbs, Leon Spinks, Michael Dokes, Gerry Cooney …… and so, so many of the so-called ‘Lost Generation of Heavyweights’ who also fell victim to drugs and strayed so badly as a result.