SPE­CIAL FEA­TURE

Cory Spinks speaks ex­clu­sively about his fa­mous fam­ily and his own ca­reer

Boxing News - - Contents -

AS the son and nephew of for­mer world heavy­weight cham­pi­ons, do you be­lieve that it was your des­tiny to be­come a boxer?

Not re­ally. To be hon­est, I can’t give the box­ing side of my fam­ily any credit from when I was a kid and got into box­ing, be­cause that wouldn’t be the truth. There’s a whole lot of ro­mance that could be cre­ated for my story, but box­ing for me was some­thing that I found my­self, and even without the his­tory of my fam­ily I was still go­ing to be­come a cham­pion. Box­ing for me was some­thing that hap­pened be­cause the gym in my neigh­bour­hood was next to a bar­be­cue place peo­ple would go to. I’d be in there from the age of nine and that had noth­ing to do with my fa­ther [Leon Spinks] or Un­cle Michael [Spinks].

The ex­cel­lent book about Leon and Michael Spinks, One Punch From The

Promised Land, tells the story of two con­trast­ing char­ac­ters from their be­gin­nings in the in­fa­mous Pruitt-igoe hous­ing projects all the way to their re­spec­tive heavy­weight glo­ries. Can I first ask you about your re­la­tion­ship with your fa­ther, Leon?

Me and him are cool at the mo­ment, but it wasn’t al­ways like that. I didn’t get to know him un­til I was about 13, but I knew of him be­cause of the way peo­ple in the neigh­bour­hood would speak about him. They’d be like, ‘Look, there goes Leon Spinks’ lit­tle boy.’ My fa­ther would ei­ther be up in Detroit or Chicago do­ing his thing and stay­ing out the way. My older brother, Leon Jnr, was shot dead when I was younger and that’s when [Leon Snr] first ap­peared in my life. We get on okay now and I try my best to have a good re­la­tion­ship with him, but I can’t for­get that he was miss­ing from my life for a big por­tion and in that time I be­came the big­gest mummy’s boy imag­in­able. And Michael?

Un­cle Michael is a good per­son. He wasn’t around as much when I was younger ei­ther, but he don’t have that same re­spon­si­bil­ity that my pops did, but Un­cle Michael was al­ways cool and he gave some great ad­vice to me com­ing up and he was some­thing of a sto­ry­teller. You could tell Un­cle Michael al­ways wanted me to be proud of my dad be­cause ev­ery time I was with him he would be fill­ing my head with sto­ries about my pops and what it was like for them grow­ing up in St Louis. He was al­ways try­ing to be that con­stant link from fa­ther to son and I can’t thank him enough for mak­ing that ef­fort. Your fa­ther’s ca­reer was quite a sto­ried one that fea­tured an Olympic gold medal, a vic­tory over Muham­mad Ali and one of the most stun­ning down­falls in heavy­weight his­tory. What is your own as­sess­ment of his ca­reer, and did you take any

lessons from it? I wanted to be a cham­pion like my Un­cle Michael and not like my fa­ther. That’s no dis­re­spect to him, but he didn’t give box­ing his best shot and I didn’t want to be like that. My fa­ther was a man who went to the Olympics and won, and then won the heavy­weight ti­tle in only fight num­ber eight. You do know you’re deal­ing with a spe­cial type of fighter when you say things like that. He blew it all. He cut cor­ners, he didn’t train, he drank, and he didn’t want to give this sport ev­ery­thing he had. Michael did. He went from lightheavy­weight to heavy­weight and made it look easy, and he was also wise with the big dol­lars he made. Michael will tell you him­self that he learnt a lot from my fa­ther’s mis­takes, and I’m the same.

De­spite turn­ing pro­fes­sional without the am­a­teur hon­ours won by your fam­ily, you adapted to the sport with rea­son­able ease, bar­ring a blip against An­to­nio Diaz in De­cem­ber 1998. You forced your way into a fight with Michele Pic­cir­illo for the IBF wel­ter­weight ti­tle in April 2002 and lost a close de­ci­sion. What are your mem­o­ries of this set­back?

It wasn’t a set­back at all be­cause it gave

EVEN WITHOUT THE HIS­TORY OF MY FAM­ILY I WAS STILL GO­ING TO BE­COME A CHAM­PION”

MY CA­REER CAUGHT UP WITH ME SO FAST. THE STUFF I COULD DO AS A YOUNGER FIGHTER WAS NO LONGER POS­SI­BLE”

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me my free­dom. Al­though I be­lieve I did enough to win the fight com­fort­ably, a win for me meant I was with Top Rank for a few more fights, and I didn’t want that. My re­la­tion­ship with them wasn’t the best and I be­lieved my tal­ent was good enough to be on the same level as the guys who were mak­ing the big money at the time. It would’ve been nice to get my hands on the world ti­tle and take it back to St Louis, but the loss hap­pened for a rea­son and I was able to sign with Don King pretty much straight­away. In March 2003, you re­turned to Italy for un­fin­ished busi­ness with Pic­cir­illo. What was dif­fer­ent this time around as you be­came world cham­pion for the first time?

It was pretty much just right­ing the wrongs from the first fight and show­ing the peo­ple of Italy who I was. I al­ways knew I was go­ing to be world cham­pion, but now I was world cham­pion on my terms. The fight was a lit­tle eas­ier than the first one, but at the back of your mind you’re al­ways think­ing about what the judges may do to you. I’d heard an aw­ful lot about judges over in Europe in places like Italy and Ger­many, so the game plan was to try knock­ing him out, and if it that wasn’t work­ing then try all I can to knock him out so it looks like I’m the one win­ning the fight. He was a tough guy who fought with a lot of heart and pride, but I knew I’d done enough to get the de­ci­sion. That vic­tory im­me­di­ately put you in a uni­fi­ca­tion bout with lin­eal cham­pion Ri­cardo May­orga on a Don King su­per­show in De­cem­ber 2003. A nasty build-up was put aside once the bell rang, and you pro­duced a tac­ti­cal mas­ter­class to be­come ruler of the whole divi­sion. What did that win mean to you?

It was all for my mother. She passed away when I was 20 and ev­ery­thing from that point was all for her. At the weigh-in, May­orga whis­pered into my ear, ‘I’m go­ing to kill you so at least you get to see your mother soon’, and ain’t no­body talk­ing about my mother like that. That wo­man was ev­ery­thing to me and still is. Even as a kid, if you said ‘your momma’ to me, I’m go­ing to walk right over there and punch you in the face. I had to con­cen­trate for the en­tire fight be­cause ev­ery punch he threw whis­tled right past me and I couldn’t be get­ting caught with what he threw. It was a re­lief to hear the fi­nal bell and have my dad and Un­cle Michael in the ring with me, but I ba­si­cally broke down be­cause I wanted my mother there with me, too. May­orga had the de­cency to apol­o­gise af­ter­wards and ex­plain to me that it was just his way of f ***** g with my head.” Your two fights with Zab Ju­dah, only 10 months apart (April 2004 and Fe­bru­ary 2005), brought dif­fer­ent re­sults. You were vic­to­ri­ous in the first bout and dom­i­nant for most of the sec­ond, be­fore dra­mat­i­cally un­rav­el­ling af­ter be­ing caught in the ninth. What went wrong that night?

Where do I be­gin with that sec­ond Ju­dah fight? Do you have any idea how quick Zab Ju­dah is? I’m not just talk­ing hand, I’m talk­ing feet and re­flexes. To go in there with Ju­dah you need to be 100 per cent, and be­fore the fight I found out I was suf­fer­ing from Crohn’s Dis­ease. I won’t

EV­ERY­THING IN BOX­ING IS LARGELY MO­TI­VATED BY MONEY”

lie, the pres­sure of 22,000 peo­ple in St Louis and walk­ing out with [rap star] Nelly also got to me, and I was fac­ing a dif­fer­ent Zab Ju­dah. It was the hun­gri­est he’d ever been be­cause he wasn’t fight­ing for much money and his spell as a top earner in box­ing was close to the end. It’s a mir­a­cle, an ab­so­lute mir­a­cle that I got to the ninth round. Af­ter 17 months out, you won a world ti­tle at 154lbs by out­point­ing Ro­man Karmazin. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on this divi­sion, you went north again to face what most thought was an im­pos­si­ble task against then-un­beaten mid­dleweight king Jer­main Tay­lor. Was this fi­nan­cially mo­ti­vated?

Yes, of course. Ev­ery­thing in box­ing is largely mo­ti­vated by money, but I also be­lieved I had the beat­ing of him be­cause he was some­one I knew from my am­a­teur days. Our states bor­dered each other, so Mis­souri and Arkansas would al­ways spar with each other dur­ing re­gional tri­als. I had the beat­ing of him back then and I be­lieve I won the fight. He was big and strong, that can’t be taken away from him, but my feet and speed were just that lit­tle bit too much for him and I’d even go as far to say I was robbed on the score­cards. I made sure I still had my su­per-wel­ter­weight belt, though. Tay­lor was your last ‘big’ fight. Losses to Verno Phillips, Cor­nelius Bun­drage (twice) and Carlos Molina pro­vided a sour end to your ca­reer. How do you as­sess those lat­ter days? For me, my ca­reer caught up with me so fast and the stuff I could do as a younger fighter was no longer pos­si­ble. You got to re­mem­ber that I was a fighter who re­lied on my legs. Un­cle Michael told me to al­ways look busy even when I wasn’t do­ing any­thing, and that much move­ment can catch up with an old man. I wanted to get out be­fore I was 35 and I man­aged that. I’m to­tally proud of ev­ery­thing that I did with my ca­reer. You ask about what I’m up to now, I do a lot of things. I’m men­tor­ing peo­ple, giv­ing out ad­vice, help­ing kids in gyms and show­ing them how to be the next Cory Spinks. I’ve got my wife and three kids down here with me in Florida and it’s all good for me at the mo­ment. I’m mak­ing these lit­tle notes ev­ery now and again as I want to write a book on my ca­reer, so that’s prob­a­bly the next tar­get for me.

UNI­FIED: Spinks wins WBC, IBF and WBA ti­tles with Don King at his side

Pho­tos: AC­TION IMAGES

DE­FEND­ING THE CROWN: ΖQ KLV ԴUVW ԴJKWwith Ju­dah, Spinks is vic­to­ri­ous

SPEED: Spinks em­pha­sises just how fast Ju­dah [above] was when they met in

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