Thursday, 12 May 2016

Michael Spinks... A class act at NVBHOF in Las Vegas.


On May 6th at Sake Rok in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of accompanying dozens of champions, past and present to the Nevada boxing hall of fame fundraiser, a glittering affair that is proving popular amongst both fans and fighters alike, during the sizzling cinco de Mayo fight weekend..   Only hours earlier Amir Khan and Saul Alvarez had weighted in for their much awaited WBC middleweight championship clash only a stones throw from Sake Rok in toshiba square, next to the brand new state of the art t-mobile arena..   Hosting the event as always was the colourful Rich Marotta along with WBC president Mauricio Sulamain, introducing an impressive array of boxing legends which included Leon and Michael Spinks, James Tillis, Joel Cassamayor, Kevin Kelley and Floyd Mayweather sr, along with current boxing stars, Shawn porter, Jessie Vargas, Layla McCarter , Andrew Tabiti, Shane Mosley and Zabdiel Judah..   During the event I had the rare pleasure of talking with former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Michael Spinks, who was as accessible as ever.  Michael explained how it was his strict mother who raised the family with a firm hand who had influenced him as a young man, Michael said that as a kid he often wondered why his mother was so hard on them, only realising in later life the exact reasoning of his mothers tough love..  Michael said for years he watched his mother try to keep the family in check, while the boys had each other, Michael suddenly realised, "who's on my moms side?"  At which point Michael got closer to the woman who's tough exterior had moulded the boys into fine young men..   Leon was also as tough on his younger brother, "he beat the shit out if me, really put it on me for a long time,  I'd question why Leon would do this, his brother would explain, I've got to be tough on you as a brother, because it's going to prepare you for worse than me out there in real battle.. "   Michael later said that after years of enduring older brother Leon's beatings, there came a day where I'd beat him up in the gym...  Later Michael credits his victories over bigger foes like Gerry Cooney and Larry Holmes to the fact that he had had a more extensive, broader apprenticeship as an amateur, boxing a more varied spectrum of international opposition, "I'd boxed poles, French, Dutch, Russian, German guys in the amateurs, the bigger guys never had the experience that I had seen."  Spinks wasn't sold on the idea of moving up to fight Larry Holmes, until visionary Butch Lewis and trainer / nutritionist Mackie Shilstone convinced him that he would not lose his key attributes, Speed and mobility in the weight gain..  Spinks concluded "If I could beat this little guy (Shilstone) during the tough transition, then Holmes would be a piece of cake.."   Shilstone had built Spinks into a 195 pound beast, not one ounce of speed was lost and with a further 10 pounds of hard muscle still to add, Michael still sustained only around 7% body fat with the superb dietary plan..  "I needed to sustain a high workrate to beat Larry and be able to recover quickly between rounds..   Michael also spoke about his longtime friend and manager Ronald Butch Lewis..   "Butch was good for me, and bad for me at the same time, but I loved him..  He had vision, he saw the opportunity for Leon to beat Ali, that was Butch, as was the idea to fight Holmes, the timing was perfect."   They never always saw eye to eye, but Michael never saw the bad in Butch having control in his career..  "I'm a man who believes in a god, and if I put my faith in something higher, I believed that if I did no wrong to him, then God would take care of the rest..   I trusted Butch.."   When asked about his fanatical state, Michael laughed "I've still got a couple of bucks, they did take some from me, but I'm ok."     One thing struck me with Michael, there was no ego or pretence in all the time I spent with him, a class act with a gentle manner..    A real champion..