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Leon Spinks, heavyweight champ who once beat Ali, dies at 67

The boxer battled cancer for five years, his family said.
Leon Spinks
Boxing champion Leon Spinks in 2014 in New York. AP

Former heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks, who once beat Muhammad Ali, died Friday night with wife at his side after a five-year fight with cancer, a spokesperson said in a statement. He was 67.

Spinks battled prostate and other cancers before his death in the Las Vegas area, the spokesperson said.

Spinks won 46 of 72 professional fights. His most noteworthy battle came on Feb. 15, 1978, when he was granted a decision victory over Ali, earning Spinks the world heavyweight title.

Before that, the St. Louis native served in the U.S. Marine Corps, won a bronze medal during the 1974 boxing world championships and silver in the 1975 Pan America Games. The next year he scored a gold medal at the Montreal Olympics.

He called boxing greats Ali, Ken Norton and Sugar Ray Leonard friends. He moved to greater Las Vegas in 2011, the year he married his wife, Brenda Glur Spinks.

He was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame but not the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

His family said he was a father, stepfather and grandfather.