This Day in Boxing

Michael Spinks Beats Larry Holmes This Day September 21, 1985 Wins Crown




Michael Spinks Beats Larry Holmes This Day September 21, 1985 Wins Crown


  • Larry Holmes 221½ lbs
  • Michael Spinks 199¾ lbs
  • UD in round 15 of 15
  • Riviera Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
  • Referee: Carlos Padilla
  • Judge: Lawrence Wallace 142-145
  • Judge: Dave Moretti 142-143
  • Judge: Harold Lederman 142-143




Holmes received $3 million plus $500,000 in training expenses.

Spinks received $900,000 plus $100,000 in training expenses.

Holmes was a 6 to 1 favorite.

Spinks, the undisputed champion at 175 pounds, bulked up to fight Holmes. Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated wrote: “Spinks brought in New Orleans nutritionist Mackie Shilstone, 34, a former Tulane football player, who put him on a 4,500-calorie diet sliced into 65% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 15% fat. It was mostly made up of vegetables and grains. . . . The challenger also ran sprints instead of doing traditional nonstop roadwork—800s with a minute between, then 400s, 200s, 100s—as if he were training for the decathlon instead of 15 rounds with Holmes. He even went on a weightlifting program, which raised the scarred eyebrows of more than one boxing purist.”

Putnam quoted Shilstone as saying: “He put on 25 pounds but he’s actually 1½ pounds leaner overall in fat content. His body fat dropped from 9.1 percent to 7.2 percent. That extra weight is all muscle. And he’s faster.”

While training to fight Spinks, Holmes said that he felt pain shoot through his shoulder whenever he threw a right hand. A physical therapist diagnosed it as a pinched nerve, and he treated it with heat, massage and pain pills. When the pain persisted, Holmes was examined by a doctor, who recommended that he see a nerve specialist. The specialist told him that he had a slipped disc in his fifth vertebra.

“If I were your doctor, I’d have you on the operating table within the hour—that’s how serious I think it is,” Holmes quoted the specialist as saying in “Against The Odds,” his 1998 autobiography. “He said if I went ahead and fought Spinks it’d be like playing Russian roulette. I might be paralyzed for life any time I threw a punch with a right hand. According to him, the disc might rupture my spinal cord. . . . Well, we brought in other doctors. They said I could fight with the pinched nerve, no problem. They said the chance that I’d get paralyzed were practically nil.” However, Holmes said the specialist’s comments were always on his mind. “I found that not only was I flat and listless,” Holmes said of his performance against Spinks, “I was reluctant to pull the trigger on the right hand.” His trainer, Richie Giachetti, said Holmes “fought scared.”

“Some people played a game with me,” Holmes said before his rematch with Spinks, alluding vaguely to some who had worked his corner. “But they’re not here to do it to me anymore.”

The fight was televised live on HBO.

A full house of 11,192 watched the fight in the Riviera’s outdoor arena.

According to HBO punch stats, Spinks landed 318 of 697 punches (46 percent) and Holmes connected on 248 of 567 (44 percent).

Spinks became the first reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

Holmes entered the fight with a 48-0 record, needing just one win to tie Rocky Marciano’s all-time undefeated heavyweight record of 49-0. After the fight, Holmes said, “I’m 35 fighting young men and Rocky was 25 fighting old men. To be technical, Rocky couldn’t carry my jockstrap.” Holmes was heavily criticized for the remark, and he later apologized.

Spinks’ victory over Holmes was named Upset of the Year by The Ring Magazine.

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