Where Are They Now? 1976 Olympic Boxer Leon Spinks

Fifth Annual Nevada Boxing Hall Of Fame Induction Gala
Fifth Annual Nevada Boxing Hall Of Fame Induction Gala. Sam Wasson / Getty Images

Leon Spinks represented the United States as a light heavyweight boxer in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and won the Gold medal. He and Michael Spinks became the first brothers to win Gold medals in the same sport at the same Olympics. His gap-toothed grin became world famous.

Post-Olympic Boxing Career for Leon Spinks

On February 15, 1978, in only his eighth professional fight, Spinks outpointed Muhammad Ali over 15 rounds to capture the world heavyweight title. Spinks lost the title back to Ali just seven months later in an unapproved rematch, losing in a 15-round unanimous decision. His career went into an irreversible tailspin.

In the first fight after the Ali rematch, he was knocked out in the first round by Gerrie Coetzee. However, he beat top-ranked WBC challenger Bernardo Mercado by a knockout to earn a title fight against Larry Holmes in 1981. He lost in a TKO by the third round. His brother Michael Spinks went on to defeat Larry Holmes for the IBF heavyweight title in 1985, becoming the first brothers to have held the world heavyweight championship title.

Leon Spinks began boxing in the cruiserweight division. His last title fight was against Dwight Muhammad Qawi in the WBA, who had taken that title from Michael Spinks. He lost by a TKO in the sixth round.

Spinks had a notable loss in 1994 in a KO to John Carlo, who was making his pro debut. He last fought in 1995, ending with a pro record of 26-17-3.

Life After Boxing Career for Leon Spinks

Spinks was reportedly homeless just over a decade after winning the heavyweight title. Later, after getting divorced, he briefly lived in a shelter in his native St. Louis. He's been a greeter at Mike Ditka's restaurant in Chicago. He also helped start a gym in Detroit and did assorted odd jobs in California.

He lived in Columbus, Nebraska and worked at a local YMCA and McDonalds. He also volunteered at an after-school program for youth. He moved to the Las Vegas area in 2011 where he could have steady work with autograph-signing appearances and married his third wife, Brenda Glur Spinks.

Brain Trauma and Health Crisis

Leon Spinks was diagnosed with brain trauma in 2012 due to his fight career and is part of the longitudinal study conducted by neurologist Charles Bernick of the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. He went into a coma in 2014 due to a lodged chicken bone that pierced his intestines. He continued physical therapy and treatment at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System. Spinks is a Marine Corp veteran.

Leon Spinks' Legacy

Spinks' son, Cory Spinks, is a former welterweight and junior middleweight world champion. Leon was usually be spotted in or around the corner at each of his son's fights.

He lost his son Leon Calvin Spinks in 1990. He was a light heavyweight boxer who was shot dead at age 19 while driving home in East St. Louis.