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Michael Spinks, Champion Boxer March 28, 1983

Aug. 09, 1999
Aug. 09, 1999

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Aug. 9, 1999

Michael Spinks, Champion Boxer March 28, 1983

Before he became a famous boxer, Michael Spinks was a disco
king, known for getting his groove on in East St. Louis
nightclubs. After he returned home in 1976 with an Olympic gold
medal, "people said forget dancing," he recalls, "we want to see
you box."

This is an article from the Aug. 9, 1999 issue Original Layout

Today, high school senior Michelle, Spinks's 18-year-old
daughter, is the dancer in the family. Her mother, Sandy, was a
dance instructor until she was killed in an automobile accident
in January 1983 when Michelle was two and Michael was preparing
for his bout with Dwight Braxton for the undisputed light
heavyweight title. "I didn't think I could fight, but I found
the courage from somewhere," says Spinks. He danced--and
jabbed--his way to a 15-round unanimous decision over the
slugging Braxton.

Spinks's brother Leon, who was also a gold medalist in 1976, was
heavyweight champion of the world by '78, but Michael had
returned home to St. Louis and become a janitor. "I didn't like
how people treated boxers," he says. But promoter Butch Lewis
kept calling, and by April '77 Spinks had had enough of
scrubbing toilets.

His defeat of Braxton made him the hottest fighter in the world,
and in 1985, following four more light heavy title bouts, he
moved up to stunningly defeat a 48-0 Larry Holmes for the IBF
heavyweight championship. After winning a rematch and two other
fights--and being stripped of his title--he pronounced himself
the People's Champion and ready to meet 21-year-old sanctioned
champion Mike Tyson. In Atlantic City on June 27, 1988, Spinks
ran into Tyson at his dominating best. "When he hit me I lost my
temper and forgot my strategy," says Spinks, who was knocked out
in 91 seconds.

Spinks, now 43, never fought again. "I don't miss the attention
or the bright lights, what I miss is the training and the
camaraderie," he says. Spinks is prosperous thanks to years of
saving and conservative investments, but he still works for
Lewis training fighters.

Michael has raised his daughter in Greenville, Del., and is
excited about Michelle's plans to study modern dance in college.
"She wants to be like Debbie Allen," says Spinks. When he's not
encouraging Michelle, Spinks visits schools--carrying his gold
medal and four title belts--where he tells kids to pursue their
dreams. "Most of the kids don't have a clue who I am," he says,
"but they listen when they see all the gold."

--John O'Keefe

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO (COVER)COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS
"I don't miss the attention," says Spinks. "What I miss is the
training and the camaraderie."