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Boxing referee hall of famer Joe Cortez reflects on Leon Spink's legacy

Posted at 6:42 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 03:03:03-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Las Vegas valley boxing community is coming together to support the family of boxing legend Leon Spinks. He’s reportedly fighting for his life at a hospital.

"Leon Spinks is like a champion. He's someone that not only brings so much not only to boxing but also the community itself.”

It’s high praise for Spinks. Retired hall of fame referee Joe Cortez reflects on being in the ring -- refereeing one of Spinks' fights, and admiring his personality.

"Anytime you come around Leon Spinks, he did it with a big smile on his face. He'd be willing to take pictures with you and talk with you,” Cortez said.

Spinks had an accomplished career winning a gold medal as a light heavyweight fighter in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. His biggest moment came in 1978 here in Las Vegas, when he defeated Muhammad Ali in a 15-round split decision, giving him the world heavyweight title. It's considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

"When you beat the greatest in Muhammad Ali with only seven pro fights under your belt, that says a lot about Leon Spinks,” Cortez said.

He says the work Spinks put in as a boxer allowed him to pull off the unthinkable.

"That takes a lot of dedication, a lot of focus. He was very serious about the sport and he made sure that he won every fight,” he said.

After hearing Spinks was in the hospital, Cortez says he's confident the boxing legend would pull through.

"He's been in the trenches before with his health and he's come back. Leon Spinks will be back and stronger than ever in the near future,” Cortez said.