1978-02-15 Leon Spinks w pts 15 Muhammad Ali, Hilton Sports Pavilion, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - WORLD
1978-02-15 Leon Spinks w pts 15 Muhammad Ali, Hilton Sports Pavilion, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA - WORLD. Referee: Davy Pearl. Scorecards: 145-140, 144-141, 142-143. In the biggest upset in the heavyweight division since Ali beat Sonny Liston, the 10-1 outsider Spinks (197¼) won the title on a split decision over the ageing champion. Pressing forward for much of the fight, Spinks would not allow Ali (224½) the space to do his best work and every time the latter got through with good punches he would retaliate immediately. From the seventh onwards Ali was trying to turn the fight his way and even when he backed Spinks up in the tenth with some heavy shots the challenger would not be put off, coming back with good punches of his own. By the 13th Ali looked extremely weary and dispirited but in the 15th he came right back to slug it out with Spinks in what would be one of the ‘Rounds of the Year’ despite being almost out on his feet. It had been a great effort but it was not enough.
Spinks forfeited WBC recognition in March for not being prepared to defend against their leading contender, Ken Norton, who had been promised first crack at the winner. Norton, having won a final eliminator on 5 November 1977, when outscoring Jimmy Young over 15 rounds at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, was immediately proclaimed champion on the basis of that victory. To qualify as his first challenger, Larry Holmes outscored Earnie Shavers over 12 rounds of a WBC final eliminator at the same venues on 25 March.