Leon Spinks

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameLeonard "Leon"•Spinks, Jr.
Used nameLeon•Spinks
Nick/petnamesNeon Leon
Born11 July 1953 in St. Louis, Missouri (USA)
Died5 February 2021 in Henderson, Nevada (USA)
Measurements183 cm / 81 kg
NOC United States


By the 1976 Olympics, Leon Spinks had already had 135 amateur bouts, but few would call him an accomplished boxer. Spinks was a brawler from the word go. He had won the 1975 AAU title and lost in the finals of the 1975 Pan American Games. At the Montreal Olympics he seemed awkward in comparison to the polished Europeans and Cubans, but he won all his bouts with ease, knocking out the Cuban world champion, Sixto Soria, in the finals.

Spinks turned pro as soon as he returned to the United States. He put on a few pounds and began fighting as a heavyweight. On 15 February 1978, after only seven pro fights, he took on Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title, and upset him. In September of 1978, Ali again fought Spinks and regained the title, but in a close, controversial decision. Spinks’ reign as heavyweight champion was the shortest in history – 212 days. Leon Spinks was small for a heavyweight. In the late 70s a new class was formed for fighters like him – the cruiserweight division. Leon Spinks continued to box professionally and made an attempt to win the cruiserweight championship, but never matched his early professional success. He fought until 1995, but was a punching bag later in his career, ending it with a record of 26 wins, 17 losses, and 3 draws.

Spinks suffered financial troubles after his retirement and, after a brief spell as a professional wrestler, lived in a shelter for the homeless. He later became a janitor at a YMCA in Columbus, Nebraska where he was reported as suffering from dementia. His son, Cory Spinks, followed the family boxing tradition and has held world professional titles in both the welterweight and light-middleweight divisions.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1976 Summer Olympics Boxing USA Leon Spinks
Light-Heavyweight, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold

Olympic family relations

Special Notes