‘A Philly Salute’ set to honor boxing legend Michael Spinks
Michael Spinks first began making boxing history in 1976 when every member of his U.S. Olympic team won gold medals in Montreal. Spinks made history again when he defeated Larry Holmes to became the first light-heavyweight champion since Tommy Burns in 1908 to win the world heavyweight title. As the younger brother of Leon Spinks, his victory over Holmes made them the first pair of brothers ever to be world heavyweight champions.
For his accomplishments, The Literary Cafe will present “A Philly Salute” to the boxing legend from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Warmdaddy’s, 1400 S. Columbus Blvd. For a $10 admission, guests will hear the former boxing great talk about his career and have an opportunity to get his autograph.
Spinks says he and his brother are still close. As youngsters they learned boxing fundamentals together. As adults they triumphed as pugilists.
“I went pretty far in the sport,” said Spinks. “I remember all of that. I dedicated myself to the sport and found out a key matter is if you work and train hard and you get the victory. So, I learned how to win. And, I learned how to win before my big brother. When I won, it made Leon get on the good foot and start winning himself.”
A native of St. Louis, Spinks moved to Philadelphia when he turned pro following his Olympic Gold Medal win in 1976. In 1986, Spinks and Holmes fought a rematch, with Spinks winning in a 15-round split decision.
According to background information provided by his longtime publicist Flo Anthony, when Spinks was stripped of the crown by the IBF to fight the mandatory challenger Tony Tucker and accepting a higher offer to fight Gerry Cooney instead, Spinks knocked Cooney out in 5 rounds and went on to lose by a knock-out in June 1988 in the first round to Mike Tyson.
A week later, Spinks retired from boxing at the age of 32, with a record of 31 wins and one loss. Twenty-one of his wins were by knockout as a professional. His titles were Olympic Gold Medalist (1976), Light Heavyweight Champion of the World (1981-1985) and Heavyweight Champion of the World (1985-1988).
Today, the former champion lives quietly in a seven-bedroom house on a five-acre spread outside Wilmington, Del.
“I moved here in 1985, right before I had to fight Larry Holmes,” recalled Spinks.
In addition to being a father of three and a grandfather to four, Spinks is an active member of the Friars Club and participates in the group’s annual Christmas gift giveaway to children and families in need in New York City. As a philanthropist, Spinks is also known for visiting schools and has sponsored many college scholarship packages to help youth attain their dreams.
“Sports pretty much gave my life purpose,” said Spinks. “It gave me a whole lot to do. And boxing — being an Olympic champion, going to the pros and representing my hometown — it did wonders for me. I learned a lot in my life from participating in sports the way I did.”
Spinks was the only light-heavyweight champion to remain undefeated in the entire history of the division since its inception in 1903, as well as the only reigning light-heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight title.
East Side Boxing said in a tribute to Spinks: “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.”
Spinks added: “I found out that age [in boxing] didn’t matter. It depended on how well you were able to display what you learned in the gym. That was a surprise to me and taught me a lot about being a man: it didn’t matter what age you were, if you were skillful in the ring you could beat up 20 year old men at 11, 12 or 15.”
Spinks was enshrined into the National Boxing Hall of Fame on April 29, the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame on May 29, and will become part of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame on Aug. 12. He was previously enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame.
For more information on the event, call (215) 877-2665.