Ali regained Heavyweight Title for second time against Spinks
He’s regarded as the “Greatest of All-time” and Muhammad Ali regained the heavyweight championship for a second time, 42 years ago Tuesday night.
This was a rematch after Ali had been stunned by former Olympic Gold Medalist, but little experienced, professional Leon Spinks in February of 1978. We wrote previously about Spinks’ stunning upset of the Hall of Famer Ali, as he became the first World Heavyweight Champion to capture the title in just his eighth professional fight.
The aging Ali and promoter Bob Arum wanted another opportunity at Spinks, as soon as possible and he eagerly agreed to take on Ali just seven months after his historic win.
The night was September 15th in the New Orleans Superdome with at that time, a record indoor crowd 63,350 to see Ali go for history in trying to become the first three-time World Heavyweight champ.
The WBC had stripped Spinks for refusing to fight Ken Norton. So, this battle was for only the WBA version of the World title. Spinks actually received more money guaranteed than Ali at $3.75 million while Ali made $3.25 million.
ABC Network TV paid at that time a record, $5.3 million to televise the fight live.
And, this fight was different from the first one.
Where Ali, in questionable shape, had laid back in February and allowed Spinks to be the aggressor, hitting him with lead right hands and combinations, Ali was a more aggressive fighter this time around. He consistently scored with his trademark left jab and right hands behind it. Then, he also would grab Spinks repeatedly to avoid counter punches.
Those tactics continued to frustrate the inexperienced champion and Ali fed off the crowd that continued to chant his name, round after round in the fight, espeicallly anytime he would begin to score.
Ali piled up the rounds and built a large big lead.
So, the championship 13th through the 15th rounds basically became a test of Ali’s endurance to see, if he could last. And, “The Greatest” pulled through, leaving only the decision to be read and his hand raised.
The judges were unanimous at 10 rounds to 4 with 1 even on two of them and 11 – 4 the third one, for Ali to make history on a 15-round decision.
The fight was viewed on a ABC by over 90 million people and still goes down as the most-watched title fight on live TV ever.
Ali said in the aftermath of the fight that it would be his last, and officially sent in a letter of retirement to the WBA in June of 1979.
Obviously he wasn’t done, challenging Larry Holmes in October of 1980, but losing horribly, as Ali looked like a “shot fighter” only taking punches and offering virtually nothing against the young talented champ, Holmes.
“The Greatest” would fight once more, losing a decision to Trevor Berbick before retiring for good with an 56-5 record.
Spinks earned another title shot, when he beat the WBC’s number one contender, Bernardo Mercado, with a 9th round KO in 1980.
That set him up for a title fight in 1981 against champion Holmes. But, Holmes kayoed Spinks in the third round denying him a chance to regain the title.
Spinks later competed as a Cruiserweight and fought for that division’s World Championship again in 1986. But, champ Dwight Muhammad Qawi defeated him by 6th round TKO in his last World Title bid.
Spinks is still most known for having beaten, but then losing to, Ali in the same year.