Former heavyweight world champion Leon Spinks, who was recently hospitalized in Las Vegas due to cancer and is in intensive care, has shown “small signs” of improvement.
“Leon is currently in intensive care at a Las Vegas hospital receiving attentive medical care to suppress prostate cancer which he was diagnosed with earlier this year and has since spread to his bladder,” a family spokesman said in a statement on Friday night. “The last few months have been an agonizing roller coaster for Leon and his wife, Brenda, with continuous hospital stays. Leon is showing small signs of improvement and progress.
“A miraculous fighter his entire life, we are optimistic and hopeful that he will move out of ICU soon. The power of prayer is real, and his family is beyond grateful for all of the tremendous love and support.”
The 66-year-old Spinks, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1976, scored a massive upset and made boxing history on Feb. 15, 1978. He was a 6-0-1 professional novice when he was given an entirely unexpected opportunity to challenge Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight championship and won a 15-round split decision at the Las Vegas Hilton. The victory shot Spinks to international stardom overnight.
Spinks and Ali met again in an immediate rematch seven months later at the Superdome in New Orleans and Ali regained the title by 15-round unanimous decision.
Spinks (26-17-3, 14 KOs) never again approached the level of success he had in the first fight with Ali, but he continued to fight for many years before retiring in 1995. In 2017, he was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.
Spinks, the brother of Hall of Fame former heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks and the father of former undisputed welterweight world champion Cory Spinks, has had previous medical problems. In 2014, he suffered intestinal damage and was hospitalized after swallowing a piece of chicken bone. It led to multiple surgeries.