THIS DAY IN SPORTS: No way Leon Spinks would win this, right?

Presented by BBSI BOISE.

This Day In Sports…February 15, 1978:

In one of boxing’s biggest upsets, 10-1 underdog Leon Spinks wins a 15-round decision over Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas to take the world heavyweight title. Ali was 36 at the time, but had held the title for over three years. Spinks was entering only his eighth professional bout. Ali would get the belt back from Spinks seven months later in a rematch in New Orleans. Spinks, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist, was the only boxer ever to defeat Ali in a title bout.

Ali saw Spinks as a low-risk opponent as he geared up for another title challenge from Ken Norton. Ali, of course, had developed an outsized world presence in the years following his 3½-year exile from boxing for refusing to be drafted into military service in 1967. In the 1970s he became known by his self-promoted moniker, “The Greatest.” Spinks was a brawler who won a couple of nondescript fights to earn a shot at the legendary champion.

While Spinks was grinding himself into shape for the bout, Ali was taking it relatively easy, logging only 20 rounds of sparring work. Spinks entered the ring at a svelte 197 pounds, while Ali was a soft 224. Spinks’ strategy early was to pummel Ali’s arms and shoulders in the hopes of sapping the energy from Ali’s punches in the later rounds. It seemed to work.

By the 15th round, Ali was desperate and Spinks confident, and the champ knew his only path to victory was a knockout. Ali delivered flurry after flurry, but Spinks took it all and returned the favor, especially in the wild final seconds. Spinks delivered a left-right combination, two uppercuts and a final left-right right before the bell. A drained and respectful Ali patted Spinks’ shoulder with his glove. Five weeks later, the WBC portion of the title was stripped away due to Spinks’ refusal to fight Norton. He opted for the rematch with Ali and lost that bout in a unanimous decision.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


Bacon Boise
The Sandwich Bar
BBSI Boise
Harmon Travel
Commercial Tire