FORMER undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks has died at the age of 67.
The man who shocked the world when he beat the legendary Muhammad Ali in just his eighth pro fight had been battling prostate cancer for the last five years.
Spinks’ management firm said in a statement that he died on Friday evening with his wife Brenda Glur Spinks by his side, and with ‘only a few close friends and other family’ allowed to be present due to coronavirus restrictions.
Tributes have flooded in for the American who competed between 1977 and 1995.
President of the World Boxing Council Mauricio Sulaiman tweeted: “Rest in peace, Leon Spinks.
“Olympic medalist, Pan American medalist, and of course, WBC heavyweight champion.”
WBC lightweight champ Devin Haney posted “RIP Leon Spinks.”
American US boxing manager Lou DiBella tweeted: “Rest In Peace, Neon Leon, a heavyweight champion and a nice man.
“Condolences to @MikeSpinksjinx and the Spinks family. Rest In Peace and Power, Leon Spinks.”
Spinks served in the United States Marine Corps, who he proudly represented when he won a gold medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
But he cemented his place in boxing history on February 15, 1978, in Las Vegas, Nevada, when he pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history by beating Ali to become the undisputed world heavyweight champ.
Leon entered that fight with only seven prior professional fights, weighing only 197 pounds and being outweighed by over 25 pounds.
He was not successful in the rematch, losing the belts via unanimous decision at the Louisiana Superdome on September 15, 1978.
Spinks, famous for his characteristic gap-toothed grin, never reached such highs again as he retired in 1995 with a record 26 wins, 17 defeats and three draws.
In 2014 Spinks was hospitalised and suffered major damage to his intestines caused by a piece of bone from a chicken wing.
After several surgeries he then spent a number of weeks at a rehabilitation centre.
In August 2017, along with his brother Michael Spinks, Thomas Hearns and Ken Norton, Leon was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
His son Cory Spinks also enjoyed success inside the ring, becoming undisputed welterweight champion.
His other son Leon Calvin was tragically shot dead in 1990 while travelling to his girlfriend’s in East St. Louis.