Ali, This Day in Boxing

Muhammad Ali Loses Crown to Leon Spinks This Day February 15, 1978


Muhammad Ali Loses Crown to Leon Spinks This Day February 15, 1978




  • Leon Spinks 197¼ lbs
  • Muhammad Ali 224¼ lbs
  • SD in round 15 of 15
  • Location: Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
  • Referee: Davey Pearl
  • Judge: Lou Tabat 145-140
  • Judge: Harold Buck 144-141
  • Judge: Art Lurie 142-143
  • World Boxing Council Heavyweight Title (11th defense by Ali)
  • World Boxing Association Heavyweight Title (11th defense by Ali)



Spinks defeated Alfio Righetti by a 10-round unanimous decision on November 18, 1977. Before the bout, promoter Bob Arum said Ali, who was in attendance, had signed to fight the winner in Las Vegas on February 15, 1978.

On November 5, 1977, Ken Norton (ranked No. 1 by the WBA and WBC) defeated Jimmy Young (ranked No. 2 by the WBA and WBC) by a 15-round split decision in a bout that was sanctioned by the WBC as a heavyweight title eliminator.

The WBC sanctioned Ali’s fight against Spinks on December 1, 1977, but said the winner had to fight Norton.

Ali’s purse was $3.5 million, and Spinks received $320,000.

A sellout crowd of 5,298 produced a gate of $756,300.

The fight aired live on CBS and drew more than 70 million viewers. CBS paid $3.8 million to televise the bout.

Spinks was a 10-1 underdog.

All three official judges and the Associated Press scored the last three rounds for Spinks. The AP had Ali winning 143-142.

Spinks became the first challenger to win the World Heavyweight Championship on a decision since Jim Braddock defeated Max Baer on June 13, 1935.

Spinks entered the fight with a record of 6-0-1. With only seven pro fights, he was the most inexperienced boxer ever to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

On March 18, 1978, the WBC stripped Spinks and awarded the title to Ken Norton. However, Spinks remained the WBA champion.

Ali vs. Spinks I was named 1978 Fight of the Year by The Ring, and 15th round was named Round of the Year by the magazine.


Post-Fight Quotes

Ali: “I gave the best I could. I knew he was a good fighter. It was a close fight. He was the aggressor. It could have gone either way.”

Spinks: “I knew I was always in it, and I knew I had to go all out in the last few rounds.”

Ali: “Next time, I’ll have to get on my toes to beat him. My rope-a-dope didn’t work. He was too strong. It was more a mistake in strategy.”

Spinks: “I was very serious during the fight, but I also had a lot of fun. He kept saying things to me, trying to make me mad, but all he did was make me laugh. It was like he was telling me jokes. One time he called me a dirty name. I said, ‘Oh, Ali, how could you say such a thing?’ Can you imagine your idol calling you a dirty name?”

Ali: “Winning the championship two times is rough. Only me and Floyd Patterson have done it. If I can win it a third time, I think I’ll establish a record that won’t be broken in a thousand years.”

Spinks: “I’m the latest, but he’s the greatest.”

Ali: “I let him rob my house while I was out to lunch.”

Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer: “I knew it was too close for comfort. I told him to stop fooling around. He was giving up too many rounds. But I heard the decision and I thought ‘Well, what are you going to do; that’s it.’ I prepared myself for this day for a long time. I conditioned myself for it. I was young with him and now I feel

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