Leon Spinks vs. Jesse Burnett

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1982-10-31 : Leon Spinks 195 lbs beat Jesse Burnett 178¾ lbs by UD in round 12 of 12

  • NABF Cruiserweight Title (Vacant Title)

Notes

  • The title had been vacated by S.T. Gordon when he captured the WBC cruiserweight title on June 27, 1982.
  • Spinks came into this fight ranked #1 by the WBC.


LEON SPINKS RETURNS WITH A VICTORY
By MICHAEL KATZ, Special to the New York Times
Published: November 1, 1982

MCAFEE, N.J., Oct. 31— The ring adventures of Leon Spinks resumed today when the former heavyweight champion was awarded a 12-round unanimous decision against Jesse Burnett, a 36-year-old former light-heavywight contender, for the vacant North American Boxing Federation cruiserweight title.

After one of the most exciting fights of the year, it appeared that the three officials were in a distinct ringside minority when the decision for Spinks was announced and loudly booed. Referee Larry Hazzard scored it 116-114 for Spinks while the judges, Tom Kazmarek and John Steward, had it 117-112 and 116-113.

"They call me the old man in the gym," said Burnett. Spinks did not call him "old"; "wise" was his adjective. For three rounds, the "old man" backed into the ropes and let Spinks, not in peak condition, wear himself out. Then, starting with the fourth round, Burnett unleashed what his corner calls "the express," a solid right hand over the top of Spinks's low left hand. Time and again, from the fourth through the eighth rounds, Burnett wobbled Spinks.

Spinks, the last man to hold the unified heavyweight title, was making his first ring appearance since his debut in the new 195-pound division last February. He said he had only nine days of serious training for this CBS bout, put together hurriedly as one of the many network fillers because of the strike in the National Football League. Spinks was also five pounds over the cruiser limit two days ago, a quarter-pound over at this morning's weigh-in.

But perhaps it takes a heavyweight's punch to stop even an out-of-shape Spinks. Burnett landed the sharper punches, but Spinks kept pressing forward, using his superior upper-body strength and weight to keep his opponent pinned on the ropes. The two were toe to toe for most of the way and somehow there were no serious cuts, no knockdowns. For Spinks, it was his 12th victory against three losses and two draws.

Burnett just shrugged and smiled when the decision was announced. Of the 15 losses - against 25 victories and a draw - on his record, he figured at least 12 were in fights he won.

Five years ago, disillusioned, he had decided to retire. But a year ago, he was laid off from his job in California as a carpenter. Then came the $25,000 offer to fill the television date. "This was the best fight he ever fought," said his manager, Jesse Reid. "In his heart, he felt it was his last chance." For Spinks, the cruiserweight division is his last chance. The more than a million dollars he earned from his two heavyweight title fights with Muhammad Ali and his bout with Larry Holmes is gone, much of it in a divorce proceeding. His former wife, Nova, even got custody of at least one set of his false teeth. He is in debt. But at least, when he gets hit these days, it is not by a heavyweight.

Preceded by:
Gordon vs. Lopez
NABF Cruiserweight Title Fight
# 4
Succeeded by:
Davis vs. Burnett