Like the rest of the boxing world, top trainer Kevin Cunningham is mourning the loss of former world champion and Olympic gold medalist Leon Spinks. He lost his battle against prostrate cancer and other cancers on February 5th at the age of 67.
Cunningham reached out to BoxingScene.com to share some of his thoughts on Spinks and what he meant to the St. Louis, Missouri community that they both grew up in.
“I was twelve years old when Leon and Michael won Olympic gold in 1976. I grew up in North St. Louis which is infamously known as one of the worst ghettos in the country. When Leon and Mike won Olympic gold on that historic night in 1976, I remember everyone in the neighborhood running outside yelling and screaming that Leon and Mike won.
“Everybody in St. Louis felt like they were kin to the Spinks brothers. The city was so proud of them and they gave everybody in the hood hope. Leon and Mike’s success inspired kids throughout St. Louis to get into boxing. St. Louis became one of the best amateur programs in the country throughout the 80’s and 90’s. The city of St. Louis has produced over 18 world champions.
“When Leon beat Muhammad Ali in 1978 it was like St. Louis had won the Super Bowl. That fight was watched by over 90 million viewers and was the biggest sporting event of that time. On that night Leon won the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world with only 7 pro fights.
“Leon started the beginning of the Spinks family‘s historic boxing legacy. Michael followed up by adding more history to the family legacy. Mike won the undisputed light heavyweight championship and moved up to heavyweight and beat the undisputed heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. Mike was the first undisputed light heavyweight champion to also win the undisputed heavyweight championship.
“I was blessed to have the opportunity to manage and train Cory Spinks, Leon’s son. Our journey started when Cory joined my PAL amateur boxing program. After winning several national amateur titles and becoming the #1 ranked 139 pound amateur in the nation, we decided to turn pro.
“Cory won the IBF welterweight championship and then challenged WBC and WBA welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga for the undisputed welterweight championship. Cory added more history to the Spinks family legacy by beating Mayorga and winning the undisputed welterweight championship.
“The Spinks family is by far the most accomplished family in the sport of boxing. There’s no other family in the sport that has two Olympic gold medal champions and three undisputed world champions. I’m thankful and honored, to have had the opportunity to be apart of boxing royalty.”
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