Tag Archives: Larry Holmes

An Unappreciated Legend: Michael Spinks Was One of Boxing’s Best

2 Jun
Michael Spinks

Former world Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight champion Michael Spinks gives his acceptance speech after being inducted into the Atlantic City Hall of Fame.

Thanks For The Memories

With his induction into the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame, Michael Spinks reminisced about his stellar career.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

For many casual sports fans, one of the most vivid memories of Michael Spinks was his being on the receiving end of a devastating first-round knockout from a Mike Tyson en route to becoming the youngest Heavyweight Champ.

For Spinks, it was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar boxing career. Before winding up on the wrong end of that Tyson knockout blow in Atlantic City on June 1988, Spinks was the undisputed light-heavyweight champion of the world and had become the first light-heavyweight to become heavyweight champion when he upset a then unbeaten Larry Holmes.

Spinks was in Atlantic City last Sunday as an inductee in the inaugural class of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. He was inducted beside some of the guys he bested in the ring –Holmes and Dwight Muhammad Qawi—and the one guy who beat him—Tyson.

Spinks retired with a record of 31-1 with 21 knockouts and championships in two weight divisions.

SpinksvsQawi

One of Michael Spinks most notable wins was his 15-round unanimous decision over Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1983.

And oh by the way, Spinks was also a part of the nation’s greatest Olympic boxing team, the 1976 squad that won five gold medals, one silver and one bronze. In addition to Spinks, that team included Sugar Ray Leonard, Michael’s brother Leon, Leo Randolph and Howard David. In fact, the Spinks brothers became the first brothers to win gold medals in the same Olympics. Five members of that team—Leonard, the Spinks Brothers, Leo Randolph and bronze medalist John Tate—won world titles as professionals.

Spinks had a strong overhand right known as the “Spinks’ Jinx” He also had a solid left jab and could just straight knock you out.

But the thing that stood out to me was Spinks’ toughness in the ring against top-notch competition.

That toughness in the ring as a pro was forged in part by being a member of that 1976 Olympic Boxing team, Spinks said. The competition on that team was as strong as any he would face in his pro career, he said.

“Every guy on that team was an ass-kicker,” Spinks said. “They kicked ass and took names. It prepared me (for the pros) for sure. We learned how to compete fiercely. We learned not to take no for an answer. We learned not to take any butt-whippings from everybody. We learned how to fight hard.”

Another thing that made Spinks a tough guy in the rink was his older brother Leon. Michael told me that he knew he was getting better when he took Leon to a local gym in St. Louis, sparred with his brother, and actually beat him.

“We did three rounds and I whupped my brother’s butt for the first time,” Spinks said with a smile. “ I said, ‘Leon, I kicked your ass. … That gave me confidence that I got a little better.”

While Leonard, Leon Spinks, and Davis, who was named the most outstanding boxer of the Montreal Olympics, garnered most of the attention, Spinks was relatively unknown and got to the finals via a pair of forfeits.

But Spinks overwhelmed Rufat Riskiyev of the Soviet Union in the gold medal match  and dominated him with a third-round TKO to win the gold medal in the middleweight division. Spinks had lost to Riskiyev earlier that year.

“After he beat me in Russia, I said I think I can beat him. It’s just so happened that I got him in Montreal and I had it in for him,” Spinks said. “Every time I thought of (Riskiyev), I got down and did 10 pushups (during training). It was him and I in the finals and I got him.”

As a professional fighter in the light heavyweight division, Spinks took on all comers, went up the rankings and beat everybody they put in front of him in an era when contenders for crowns actually fought each other.

To get an opportunity to fight for the World Boxing Association light heavyweight crown, Spinks had to fight a former world champion in Marvin Johnson, whom he beat with a fourth-round knockout in March 1981. Four months later, Spinks took on Eddie Mustafa Muhammad for the World Boxing Association light-heavyweight title and defeated him in a brutal 15-round unanimous decision

Spinks unified the title in another, hard fought 15 round unanimous decision against his former sparring partner Dwight Muhammad Qawi. He also added the International Boxing Association title. He was unbeaten in world title fights at the light heavyweight division.

Of course, the signature fight of Spinks career came against Holmes, the then-unbeaten heavyweight champion who appeared to be on his way to breaking Rocky Marciano’s record of 49 wins without a loss.

To boxing observers, Spinks was attempting to do the impossible as a light heavyweight…defeat the reigning heavyweight champion of the world. While he admitted to being extremely nervous before the fight,  something in him clicked and told him to relax and fight his fight—defense and counterpunching.

“I told myself you haven’t gotten your ass whipped and to stop thinking that way,” Spinks said. “I just do what I do best. I moved on Larry and I threw punches to let him know that was there. I fought in a circle and made it difficult for Larry to hit me.”

Spinks would beat Holmes in a 15-round unanimous decision and would beat Holmes again in the rematch. He would beat every other heavyweight he fought, except for that loss to Tyson. At the time, I thought Spinks because of his style and defense would give Tyson problems. Unfortunately, a Tyson right knocked him out in the first round.

But even in losing that fight, Spinks has no regrets and said he left everything in the ring.

“My coach told me that I better not walk out that ring as a loser. He said if I lose they’d better be carrying me out on a stretcher,” Spinks recalled. “I had the fighting spirit. If you’re going to beat me, you’re going to beat me trying.”

 

Atlantic City Celebrates its Storied Boxing History With Inaugural Hall-of-Fame Induction

2 Jun
IMG_0667

Dwight Muhammad Qawi was inducted into the new Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. Known as the “Camden Buzz Saw,” Muhammad had some memorable fights in Atlantic City. Photo by Chris Murray

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Back in the 1980s, local high rollers looking for entertainment away from the tables in the form of a boxing match didn’t have to go all the way to Las Vegas to scratch that itch.

They only had to go as far as Atlantic City.

Atlantic City was as big a boxing venue as they come and was the setting for some of the greatest boxing matches in the sport’s history.

From the heavyweight title bout between Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks, to the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward Trilogy, and great matchups between Philly-area fighters like Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Matthew Saad-Muhammad, Atlantic City was a major hub for professional boxing.

That history was honored on Sunday night (May 28) as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame inducted its first class of boxing legends.

In addition to Gatti, Spinks, Qawi and Saad-Muhammad, boxing champs Mike Tyson, and Larry Holmes, boxing writer Bert Sugar, referee and former N.J. State Boxing Commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr., Philadelphia boxing promoter J.Russell Peltz, matchmaker Don Elbaum and legendary promoter Don King were among those enshrined as part of the first class.

In addition to being a celebration of the Sweet Science, the ceremony at the Claridge Hotel also served as a glowing tribute to what was once one of the sport’s beloved locations.

“When you consider that in the five years from 1984 to 1988, there were 451 fight cards in Atlantic City, which is an average of 90 a year,” Peltz said. “What city, what state has 90 fight cards a year?!”

Like the boxers it celebrated, Atlantic City itself is scrappy. Through the ACBHOF, that scrappiness is celebrated, said Ray McCline, the Hall of Fame’s president and founder.

At a time when the city’s Boardwalk is a shadow of its former self and tourism is spotty, the ACBHOF could be a big help, McCline said.

“It’s a huge boost,” he said.  “It’s really about trying to remind people what Atlantic City was in the past, but to also create a space so that we can be competitive on a boxing level … It’s about promoting the history of Atlantic City and also Atlantic City as a tourist destination for people that love the sport, but also love the city.

Don Guardian, Atlantic City’s Mayor, agrees. The economic impact these athletes had on the City alone makes honoring them this way make sense, he said.

“It’s almost like we owe this to these great athletes that came in their prime and performed in Boardwalk Hall, especially,” he said. “What it meant was that hundreds of thousands of people over a decade came to Atlantic City that wouldn’t have been here otherwise.  … Thousands of jobs existed because of the great athletes that are in that ring.  Atlantic City was the East Coast boxing Mecca and it we hope to return to that again.”

While McCline and Guardian are optimistic that Atlantic City can return to its boxing glory days, Peltz thinks that the increased level of competition from casinos in locations like upstate New York and Connecticut makes it highly unlikely.

“I think Spinks and Tyson was the peak in June of 1988,” he said. “It’s never going to be what it was because the casinos have too much competition from those in New York and Connecticut and they aren’t willing to put up the money they way they used to back in those days.”

For boxing fans, Sunday night’s event provided a chance to envision what Atlantic City’s boxing heyday must have looked like. Seeing Michael Spinks and Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Mike Rossman served as a reminder of the epic battles these fighters had with each other and of the days when Atlantic City was a great boxing venue.

“I don’t try to figure it out, I just accept it,” said Qawi, who fought Matthew Saad Muhammad, both Michael and Leon Spinks. “(Fighting in Atlantic City) brought the best out of me.”

McCline is in the process of trying to find a permanent home for the ACBHOF, he said. The Claridge Hotel is in the running, and he is looking at other locations around the city.

Here are the members of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017:

Boxers: Matthew Saad Muhammad (deceased), Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Michael Spinks, Mike Rossman, Levander Johnson (deceased), Arturo Gatti (deceased), Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes.

Trainers: Bill Johnson (Levander’s father), Lou Duva (deceased) and Mike Hall (deceased).

Promoters/Matchmakers: Frank Gelb, Don Elbaum, Don King, J. Russell Peltz

Officials: Larry Hazzard Sr., commissioner New Jersey Athletic Control Board, referee Steve Smoger, ringside physician Dr. Frank Doggett (deceased)

Media: Bert Sugar (deceased), Dave Bontempo and Jack Obermeyer (deceased)

Casino Officials: Ken Condon, consultant Caesar’s Entertainment; Dennis Gomes, CEO Resorts International (deceased) and Bob Lee, president of the International Boxing Federation.

Give Smokin’ Joe a Bronze

16 Jan

 

Jackie Frazier Lyde, the daughter of legendary fighter Joe Frazier, is hoping the city will erect a statue of her father. Photo by Webster Riddick

Jackie Frazier Lyde, the daughter of legendary fighter Joe Frazier, is hoping the city will erect a statue of her father. Photo by Webster Riddick

It’s time that one of Philadelphia’s greatest boxing legends got the statue he deserves

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA –If the statue of the fictional character Rocky Balboa is supposed to somehow symbolize the gritty spirit of Philadelphia, the late Joe Frazier was that spirit’s actual embodiment.

As part of an effort to get a statue erected to Frazier, who represented Philadelphia as the Heavyweight Champion of the World and was known in boxing circles as a knockout artist, the Champ’s Family came together with his closest friends in the boxing and political worlds and young boxers representing his legacy to celebrate his birthday last weekend at the African-American Art Museum on Seventh and Arch Streets in Center City.

While the boxing world and the political world have only fighting as a common link, these groups had a common message during the celebration. That message: It’s time that Joe Frazier’s boxing home showed one of the greatest heavyweights to lace up a pair of boxing gloves the respect that comes with a statue in his honor.

“It’s taken too long … It’s a major shortcoming on the city of Philadelphia and we have to rectify that,” said Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa. “We should have done this a long time ago. He’s a true champion. (Frazier) was a true Philadelphia champion, a Philadelphia icon. He was a world champion when there was one world champion, not like this alphabet of world champions. He was a great man outside the ring. He helped anybody. He was there for the kids, he was a great human being.”

As of now, everything in the planning stages because the family or the city has yet to commission a sculptor or a location, but the hearts are definitely in the right direction for something that should have been done a long time ago.

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said a statue for Joe Frazier is long overdue. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said a statue for Joe Frazier is long overdue. Photo by Webster Riddick.

“You can go anywhere around the country and everybody knows Joe,” said former World Boxing Council Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. “Philadelphia is a rich city and has a lot of going on and they don’t have a statue of Joe Frazier and you put in a ‘Rocky”? That picture don’t work like that.”

We all know the tale of Frazier’s legendary feats inside the ring, especially the story of March 8, 1971 in what was billed as the Fight of the Century.

In his legendary first fight against Muhammad Ali, it was Fraizer’s straight left hook that knocked Ali off his feet in the 15th round and cleared the path to a unanimous decision over the man who is considered “The Greatest.”

Frazier would lose the third fight with Ali, “The Thrilla in Manilla, but Frazier pushed him to the point where he considered quitting at around the same time Frazier’s corner stopped the fight after the 14th round.

“There wouldn’t be a Muhammad Ali, if it wasn’t for a Joe Frazier,” said Holmes, who once worked as a sparring partner for both fighters. “Those two made each other.”

The thing that makes Frazier such a beloved figure here in Philadelphia was his love for the community, especially those who lived near his gym on North Broad Street and West Glennwood Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Neighborhood kids and adults not only learned how to box, but they also found a safe haven from the streets. There are not too many places in this city they can ever say they have a secure space for young people.

Unfortunately, the Frazier family would ultimately lose the gym to a discount furniture store, but there are organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation that are trying to get the gym preserved as a historic landmark.

Frazier’s hometown of Beaufort, S.C. is planning to build a bridge on Highway 21 and name it after him.

Smokin’ Joe Frazier deserves a statue in this city not just because he was one of the greatest fighters of all time, but because he was one of the greatest Philadelphians of all time. Frazier was our work ethic, our toughness, our heart and our soul.