Talkin’ Boxing with Michael Spinks
- April 20th, 2009
This man did it all in boxing – he was an amateur champion in Golden Gloves, AAU, the 1976 Olympics. As a pro Michael Spinks was a dominant, undisputed unbeaten light heavyweight champ and then became the first to move up and successfully capture the world heavyweight title from Larry Holmes in 1985 at the age of 29.
Now 52, and living in Delaware, BoxingInsider.com had the chance to speak with Spinks in-depth about his history-making win over Larry Holmes…
BoxingInsider: Hi Michael, haven’t seen you on the boxing scene in a long time, where have you been?
Michael Spinks: Yeah, I haven’t been hanging around, I don’t know why [laughs]. I just got back from Jacksonville. I’ve been to Floyd Mayweather fights. De La Hoya and Mayweather, I attended that.
BoxingInsider: What do you think of the heavyweight division now? Enjoy it? Do you think it’s weak?
Michael Spinks: Oh, it’s very weak, it’s very weak. There’s no powerhouses there. You have nobody than can dominate the division. I mean, they got the Klitschko brothers that are kind of dominating. But they’re not great fighters watching them fight. It’s in bad shape.
BoxingInsider: Which fighters do you like to watch today?
Michael Spinks: Woooh, well you know I don’t really have no favorites. I watch whatever comes on television, if I could see it. If I hear of a fight, I’m still a boxing fan. I like to watch boxing. If I see one I’ll watch it.
BoxingInsider: How about Pacquiao vs. Hatton, what do you think of Pacquiao?
Michael Spinks: I like Pacquiao, he’s a dangerous little guy. His li’l southpaw stance has been really working for him. I didn’t expect De La Hoya to put up such a lousy performance. He’s supposed to go for broke. He’s supposed to know that a right hand-left hook beats a good southpaw. Cause that’s all Pacquiao was doing – straight left hands, right hook. He didn’t give a diligent effort, he didn’t put out the best effort he could put out. He kind of pawed him around. He’s supposed to be, Rough this boy up or something. Make it a fight. Instead of almost a dance. He didn’t put his best foot forward. He just took an ass-whoopin’.
BoxingInsider: Wladimir Klitschko vs. David Haye is getting interesting with all the hype. Any interest?
Michael Spinks: David who? I don’t know nothing about it. I haven’t heard anything about it.
BoxingInsider: Who would you say were your toughest opponents?
Michael Spinks: Mike Tyson. He knocked me silly. Paralyzed. He hit me in a good spot, it numbed my body. Luis Rodriguez in my second fight (W6). It didn’t matter how hard I hit him, he kept coming. Eddie Davis was really, really good. Leon fought both him and his brother Johnny in the amateurs and said Eddie was better and stronger. Leon was right. Rufat Riskiev beat me in Russia in the amateurs in 1979. He put me down with a straight right. I’d never been down before. But I came back and beat him in the Olympics.
BoxingInsider: What was your earliest boxing memory?
Michael Spinks: Winning my first national tournament in 1974 in Denver (age 17-18). Leon was always winning tournaments. I could never win anything before that. At that tournament I beat five guys, they all went down in the first round. It was the biggest day of my life.
BoxingInsider: Of all your fights, in which one or two did you feel at your absolute best?
Michael Spinks: I really felt good…let me see here…I felt so good when I fought Larry. When I fought Larry the first time, I mean, first time in my life, I mean, I could remember I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight that night. I wanted to fight. I had worked so hard, trained so hard. sacrificed. I had the greatest sparring partners, I had the greatest sparring team. And these guys they wrapped me up a lot. I never got the chance to get off on them. They wrapped me up, wrapped me up, wrapped me up. I couldn’t get off so it was like I was so impatient and the date of the fight came up that I was like just ready to get in the ring and fight.
I had heard everything, Larry gonna knock me out, he gonna beat me, this and that. I got so sick of that. I had a little talk with myself in my bedroom and I said, Don’t think about getting in the ring with Larry Holmes, I mean, Don’t forget Larry Holmes is getting in the ring with you. You’re champ for so many years. And just do what you’re best at. What I am best at was not letting anybody have their way with me in the ring. So my mind says Just do that. If he want it, he gotta come and get it. He gotta take it. He gotta come beat you if he want to beat you. So anyway I went in the ring ready to fight.
BoxingInsider: And everything clicked? You were moving, you were flowing.
Michael Spinks: Yeah, I was. I was, I was superb. I was superb. I just was ready. And I was ready to fight. Never felt that way in my life. In the ring. You always be like, I hope I’m ready [smiles]. I hope I did everything I possibly could have done to get ready for this fight. But this time I knew I was ready. I said, I’m just ready to fight. I enjoyed it. First time I ever had fun in the ring. I really enjoyed fighting that fight. Everything was working. I had did so much to Larry in the ring that I made him respect me in the fight. And I think I also made him feel good in losing to me that night. I made him feel good in losing to me that night.
BoxingInsider: How so?
Michael Spinks: For one thing, I didn’t taunt him. I didn’t make a mockery out of him losing. I handled it with class and just stuck to what I was doing – that was beating him, beating on him. And I didn’t taunt him, I didn’t bad-mouth him. I did it with the greatest of ease. Like that daring young man on the flying trapeze. And I think Larry, from the way he acted, I know he felt good about losing to me that night.
BoxingInsider: Did he ever compliment you about that after?
Michael Spinks: Ah well, I was so sore after the fight, I just,
BoxingInsider: No, even years later, you cross paths a lot at boxing functions, did he ever talk with you, compliment your performance?
Michael Spinks: Ah, no, no, no, no, hell no [laughs]. No, no, I mean, inside the ring, but not outside the ring. Outside the ring it’s a different story. He didn’t like losing to me because I rained on his parade. I really destroyed his parade.
BoxingInsider: How early in the fight did you realize you were impressing him? Did you see him thinking, Wow, Michael Spinks is a helluva heavyweight.
Michael Spinks: I think in the later rounds, after about ten rounds, its going down hill for him. I think that he saw there was nothing really that he could do because I was just too much for him.
BoxingInsider: What were you doing so effective?
Michael Spinks: Jab. I jabbed him. I kept a jab in his face. And he couldn’t hit me with his jab. And I had ways of getting away from his jab. I was slippin’, I would knock it down, and I would wipe it. I did all three of those things. I mixed it up. So he didn’t know what I was gonna do. His jab, I would slip it. The next time he would jab I would wipe it. Next time he jabbed I just knocked it down. But I did a lot of slippin’ and wiping and pattin’ his jab down so he didn’t know what I was gonna do. I kept my eyes on his jab so every time he shot it, I would make him miss.
BoxingInsider: So when a great jabber like Larry Holmes can’t get his jab on track, it throws off everything, right?
Michael Spinks: How you beat a good jabber is jab with him. I mean, he couldn’t jab, I was too fast for him that night. I was too fast for him. And I guess he saw a lot of fire in me, in trying to hit him. And Larry didn’t like getting hit.
BoxingInsider: In the rematch seven months later you just didn’t quite feel the same?
Michael Spinks: It wasn’t the same. I had did some things in training that kind of shocked my joints, throwing the medicine ball which I had never did and it kind of took away from my performance. It took away from my stuff. So I suffered through that fight. But I figured I won it, I know I won it. I did enough to win the fight. I really enjoyed that night with Larry. And after I fought him the first time I knew I could beat him again. I knew it.
Scoop Malinowski is the author of “Heavyweight Armageddon: The Tyson-Lewis Championship Battle.”
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