Michael Spinks Beats Eddie Mustafa Muhammad This Day July 18, 1981
Michael Spinks wins the light heavyweight crown
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad 175 lbs
Michael Spinks 173¾ lbs
UD in round 15 of 15
Location: Imperial Palace Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Referee: Richard Greene
Judge: Duane Ford 138-146
Judge: Lou Tabat 140-144
Judge: Chuck Minker 139-145
World Boxing Association Light Heavyweight Title (3rd defense by Muhammad)
By Malcolm Moran, New York Times
The plan to go from light-heavyweight champion to heavyweight champion, which had been carefully arranged and publicized by Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, was delayed, perhaps permanently, this afternoon.
The plan was delayed by Michael Spinks, the undefeated challenger, who closed Mustafa Muhammad’s right eye, knocked him down and nearly out, and controlled the final rounds to win the World Boxing Association’s light-heavyweight championship by a unanimous decision.
Thirteen hours after Mustafa Muhammad nearly lost his title because of a failure to meet the 175-pound limit, he lost his championship in the ring. This afternoon, on the stage of a hotel theater where chorus girls dance each night in a tribute to Las Vegas, Spinks’s fists were more convincing than Mustafa Muhammad’s plan.
With his right eye nearly closed because of a Spinks combination in the eighth round, and the sight in his left eye poor because water was dripping into it, Mustafa Muhammad had more and more trouble defending himself. Formerly known as Eddie Gregory, Mustafa Muhammad had won the championship from Marvin Johnson in March 1980 by relying on a counterpunching style that had been called boring but was also efficient. His style could not be as efficient when he could not see what was coming.
“I couldn’t see,” Mustafa Muhammad said. “I had to hold my head up. He hit me with an overhead right … He caught me flush on the jaw, so hard he turned me around. I said, ‘That’s all you got?'”
It was enough. Mustafa Muhammad rose after the referee, Richard Greene, had counted 9. But Spinks controlled the final rounds and stymied Mustafa Muhammad’s attempt to become more aggressive. Spinks, the last of the five gold medal winners from the 1976 Olympic boxing team to reach a title fight, said he did not know he was ahead on the scorecards. I was aiming for the eyes, or anything above his head, Spinks, who will turn 25 in four days, said.
Later, with blood slowly dripping from the corner of his right eye, Mustafa Muhammad said he thought he was ahead near the end. The judges did not agree. Lou Tabat scored the fight for Spinks by 144-140, Duane Ford by 146-138, and Charles Minker by 145-139.
Mustafa Muhammad, 29, earned $350,000, according to Bob Lee, the deputy commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission and the W.B.A. official administrator for the fight; Spinks, who is now 17-0, earned a little more than $100,000.
The former champion had helped create his own problem. Bahar Muhammad, his adviser, said yesterday that the champion had determined his own training schedule. The weigh-in by agreement was held at 12:30 this morning, so that both camps could avoid rising early in the morning. When Mustafa Muhammad stepped on the scale, it read 176 3/4, which was 1 3/4 over the limit. Obviously, the trainer had not done a very good job.
“He should have been watched a lot more carefully,” said Al Braverman, the former champion’s chief second, who arrived here yesterday.
The entourage left the room, went downstairs, and walked through the lobby of the Imperial Palace hotel. They walked past the nickel slot machines, the tables with the woman who asks passersby if they want to play some poker, and the baccarat table with the $2,000 limit.
If Mustafa Muhammad did not meet the limit, he would have been stripped of the title immediately. The fight would have taken place anyway, and only Spinks, by winning, could have come out of it holding the title. If Mustafa Muhammad had won, the W.B.A. championship would have been considered vacant.
Mustafa Muhammad weighed 201 3/4 pounds on May 17, when he lost to Renaldo Snipes in an unsuccessful attempt to enter the heavyweight division. Two months later, the extra bulk appeared to be gone and Mustafa Muhammad boasted about the shape of his body.
The entourage went by car to the Las Vegas Sporting House, a nearby health club that was open – isn’t everything? – all night. There were four or five members in the place when the entourage arrived.
And there to offer help, as the champion put on a sweatsuit to jump rope, was Matthew Saad Muhammad, the World Boxing Council lightheavyweight champion. Mustafa Muhammad and Saad Muhammad were to receive a reported $1.5 million each earlier this year for a fight that was canceled because of the scandal involving Muhammad Ali Professional Sports. If Mustafa Muhammad could retain his W.B.A. championship, a fight against Saad Muhammad – and a healthy check – would have been possible. So when it was time to lose 1 3/4 pounds, Saad Muhammad wanted to be there to help.
Mustafa Muhammad skipped rope for 12 minutes. He was still threequarters of a pound too heavy. He changed into a fresh sweatsuit and did another 12-minute cycle. He was one-quarter of a pound too heavy. He changed again and jumped some more, and left the club without being weighed. He did not have much time to get back to the hotel.
At 2:19, when the entourage reached the room for the weigh-in, Mustafa Muhammad was still having perspiration wiped from his face. At 2:21, the champion stood naked on the scale. His supporters leaned to look at the numbers as the weights were pushed along the bar.
It said 175, exactly. The room erupted. The supporters jumped, and screamed, and hugged their champion as if he had just won the fight. Mustafa Muhammad was not celebrating. Silently, without a smile, he put on the white terrycloth robe with his name on the back, placed a towel over his head, and went up to his room.
In the final rounds this afternoon, there was Saad Muhammad in Mustafa Muhammad’s corner. His eyes were pleading. His voice shouted instructions that were doing little good. After the fight was over, Saad Muhammad interrupted Spinks’s news conference to say the wrong fighter had won.
“I was talking,” Spinks said, and he just smiled when the shouting match started.