Michael Spinks Interview -
2017 Atlantic City Boxing Hall Of Fame Inductee
By Raymundo Dioses
When Michael Spinks got notice that he was going to be
inducted into the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame, the
former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion of the
world was stunned and in disbelief.
Spinks, highly regarded as perhaps the best light
heavyweight ever, was genuinely honored and taken aback that
he was even chosen to be elected in the inaugural class of
“It’s kind of unbelievable. I feel good about it. I love
Atlantic City,” said Spinks, who fought a total of 13
professional bouts in the city by the sea. Spinks recalled
his early trips to Atlantic City before a host of casinos
began to take form in the 1970’s. Spinks would walk up and
down the boardwalk eating sandwiches. “I liked the rides. I
really enjoyed myself in A.C.”
The St. Louis, Missouri native fought in the heyday of
Atlantic City boxing, as the city was booming with boxing
business in the 1980’s. Spinks first fight in the city took
place at the Resorts International, one of the first casinos
to establish itself in the city.
Spinks took on opponent Ramon Ranquello on February 24, 1980
with only a four day notice from manager Butch Lewis and
still registered a TKO win in his first A.C. fight. Even
more remarkable than the four day notice and subsequent TKO
victory was the fact that Spinks himself had just fought
earlier that month, on February 1, 1980, scoring a unanimous
decision win over Johnny Wilbum at the Louisville Gardens in
Ranquello had knocked out Mike Rossman in September 1979 and
Rossman pulled out of the scheduled rematch during fight
week. “Rossman didn’t want anymore (of Ranquello).”
Spinks did, and with the win over Ranquello, the ‘Jinx’, who
was 10-0 at that point in his career, would go on to fight
the majority of his career bouts in A.C. Spinks fought twice
more in 1980 before returning to Atlantic City on October
18, 1980, scoring a knockout over Yaqui Lopez at the
Convention Center in A.C.
Spinks fought again at the Resorts International, knocking
out Marvin Johnson on March 28, 1981 before becoming the WBA
light heavyweight champion with a unanimous decision win
over Eddie Mustafa Muhammad on July 18, 1981 in Las Vegas.
The Playboy Hotel & Casino would host Spinks first title
defense on November 7, 1981, in which Vonzell Johnson was
stopped at 1:13 of the seventh round. Spinks would fight his
next three bouts and successfully defend his light
heavyweight title at the Playboy Hotel & Casino, all three
via knockout in 1982. Spinks noted that he “loved the hotel
jackets and t-shirts” for his fights that were provided by
the Playboy Hotel & Casino. The casino was renamed the
Atlantis Hotel and Casino in 1984 and eventually closed in
1999 under the name of the Trump World’s Fair, which was the
original name of the casino.
Spinks fought at the Sands Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on
September 18, 1982, notching a TKO over Johnny Davis, and
returned to the Convention Center for his first fight in
1983, a unanimous decision win over Dwight Muhammad Qawi in
which Spinks became the unified champion by picking up the
WBC light heavyweight title.
After a defense of both
titles in Canada over Oscar Rivadeneyra on November 25,
1983, Spinks again returned to Atlantic City, this time to
the Resorts International where a unanimous decision win
over Eddie David that earned Spinks the recognition of
undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world (WBC,
WBA, IBF). Spinks also became the International Boxing
Federations inaugural champion with the win.
On February 23, 1985, Spinks again fought at the Sands
Casino Hotel against David Sears, stopping Sears at 1:02 of
round three. The Sands Casino closed its doors in Atlantic
City in November 2006.
By this time, Spinks would regularly walk Atlantic City’s
famous Boardwalk on fight week and would even run daily on
the beach in preparation for his bouts. “We had a routine.
We would run on the beach every morning. Some of my people
would run ahead of me, and sometimes I would be able to pass
them!” said Spinks, who also recalled training to the tunes
of Midnight Star.
Spinks defended his undisputed status in Las Vegas on June
6, 1985 in knocking out Jim MacDonald before audaciously
stepping up to the heavyweight class and taking the IBF
heavyweight title from Larry Holmes on September 21, 1985
via unanimous decision. The loss was Holmes first as a
professional, and in a rematch on April 19, 1986, also in
Las Vegas, Spinks gave Holmes his second career loss via
split decision. Spinks, who also became the sports first
light heavyweight champion to win a heavyweight title, had a
non-title bout win over Steffen Tangstad on September 6,
1986 to end out the year.
‘Jinx’ would fight the final two fights of his career in
Atlantic City, starting with Gerry Cooney in a non-title
bout on June 15, 1987. For the Cooney bout, Spinks recalled
training at the Trump’s Castle, then owned by
President-Elect Donald Trump. “I met him a few times, but
never had a sit down,” recalled Spinks of his interactions
with Trump. Spinks came in an 8-5 underdog yet knocked down
Cooney twice in the fifth round and scored a stoppage in the
same round at 2:51.
In the final fight of Spinks legendary career, Spinks
valiantly took on a prime Mike Tyson in what would turn
about to be a passing of the torch to a young lion who had
by then gained possession of all three major titles was
about to take over the sport.
In the lead up to the fight Spinks, “Played it cool. I
stayed in my hotel room, took walks on the Boardwalk. I knew
I had my hands full with Tyson.”
The bout took place on June 27, 1988 and was titled “Once
and For All”. The end result was a knockout loss in round
one to Tyson. It was the first time Spinks had even been
knocked down in his stellar career.
The fight, in which de facto promoter Trump paid an $11
million site fee to host the fight at the Trump Plaza, did
garner Spinks his highest career payday with a whopping
$13.5 million purse. Tyson was given a $22 million purse in
what was the record given to a fighter at that time. A sold
out crowd of 21,785 attended the fight and 600,000 fans
purchased the pay per view.
Prior to “Once and For All”, a typical Atlantic City weekend
would produce $215 million in gambling revenues. On fight
weekend for Spinks vs. Tyson, the city garnered $344
Spinks has not been back to Atlantic City in several years,
yet fondly recalled the infamous city in which he helped
popularize. In the following years, great fights took place
in Atlantic City that included fighters Arturo Gatti,
Bernard Hopkins, and heavyweight bouts featuring Evander
Holyfield and George Foreman. To some, despite only being
one round long, the Spinks/Tyson bout is the best Atlantic
City fight ever.
In terms of an event and revenue, it sure was.
Spinks is hopeful that the city can restore itself to being
a boxing powerhouse one day. “I would hope that Atlantic
City would get back to being a boxing city.” Spinks noted he
would attend boxing functions whenever they occurred in the
The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame is the next great
boxing event, planned for May 2017, and Spinks is more than
happy to attend.
“I can’t wait to get back there and walk around. Maybe I
will throw a Frisbee!”