THE RETURN OF THE SPINKS JINX
By Doveed Linder
The first live fight I ever saw was a Cory Spinks fight. It was in the summer of 1999 in the parking lot of Harrah’s Casino in St. Louis, MO. Before the fight, Al Bernstein addressed the crowd and predicted that Cory would go on to be one of the best fighters of his time. Bernstein was right, as Cory won genuine world championships at welterweight and junior middleweight. That night in 1999, a large group of screaming fans greeted Cory as he left the ring. I stood among the group and patted Cory on the back before he disappeared into his tent. As a young guy who was just starting to take a serious interest in boxing, Cory’s fight made a strong impression on me and I followed his career very closely from that point on.
Cory’s first loss as a professional came against Antonio Diaz in December of 1998 via split decision. To this day, I have never seen that fight, but every boxing fan I’ve spoken to has told me that Cory deserved to win the decision. Cory got his first shot at a world title in April of 2002 against Michelle Piccirillo in Piccirillo’s homeland of Italy, a fight he lost via unanimous decision. I did see the Piccirillo fight and there is no question that Cory won at least nine rounds out of twelve. Even Marvin Hagler who watched the fight live was quoted as saying that the decision was a travesty. Cory flew back to Italy in March of 2003 for a rematch and took Piccirillo’s welterweight title via unanimous decision.
Before Cory’s December of 2003 fight with Ricardo Mayorga, I submitted an article to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called “Return Of The Spinks Jinx”, predicting a Cory Spinks victory. The article was never printed or published, but Cory did go on to win a majority decision over Mayorga. When Cory entered the ring to face Mayorga, he was wearing a Boxingtalk t-shirt. At that time, it was my dream to one day write for Boxingtalk. It goes without saying that it’s a tremendous honor to be able to post this article on my favorite website of all time.
Shortly before Cory’s fight with Mayorga, I began to develop a vision for a documentary about the Spinks family legacy with the same title as the article I had just written: Return Of The Spinks Jinx. Anybody who is a boxing fan knows about the Spinks family. Leon and Michael Spinks, two brothers from St. Louis, MO, both won gold medals at the 1976 Olympic Games. In February of 1978, in just his ninth professional fight, Leon defeated Muhammad Ali via split decision. Michael established himself as one of the best light heavyweights in the history of the sport and went on to win a unanimous decision over heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in September of 1985. With the victory over Ricardo Mayorga, Cory made history and added to the legacy of the “Spinks Jinx.”
A “jinx” is a person, object, influence, or supernatural being which is supposed to bring bad luck or cause things to go wrong. In the case of the “Spinks Jinx”, the jinx is put on the opponents, as if their fate is sealed before they ever step into the ring.
In April of 2004, Cory defended his welterweight titles with a unanimous decision over Zab Judah. On May 1, 2004, I attended Cory’s wedding with a video crew and began production on “Return Of The Spinks Jinx.” That day, I interviewed a number of people in Cory’s wedding party, including his father Leon. It was the first time I ever interviewed a fighter. I also interviewed a seventeen-year-old kid named Devon Alexander who was about to turn professional. Everybody at the wedding claimed that Alexander would be the next world champion out of St. Louis. They were right.
Kevin Cunningham, a former St. Louis police officer, trained both Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander from when they were young kids and led them to world championships. Very few trainers in the game have shown that kind of faith and devotion to the kids they have worked with. Cunningham is a hero in the city of St. Louis and in the world of boxing.
In December of 2004, I attended the Christmas party of Mayor Francis Slay, the mayor of the city of St. Louis. When I entered Slay’s office, he told me that Cory Spinks and Kevin Cunningham had just left. He then went on to tell me that they were in the process of planning the biggest fight in the history of St. Louis. That fight turned out to be the rematch between Cory Spinks and Zab Judah. Spinks-Judah II took place in February of 2005, a fight that Judah won via ninth round TKO. Some people believed that Spinks lost his titles because he was caught up in the moment, as he danced his way into the ring accompanied by St. Louis rap star Nelly. What those people didn’t realize is that Cory always came into the ring dancing, just as he did in July of the following year when he won a majority decision over junior middleweight champion Roman Karmazin.
In May of 2007, I drove to Memphis, TN to watch Cory challenge undefeated middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. In my eyes, Cory won about eight or nine rounds out of twelve, but Taylor won the fight via split decision. In March of 2008, Cory lost his junior middleweight title to Verno Phillips via split decision, but regained his title by winning a split decision over fellow St. Louisan Deandre Latimore in April of 2009. In August of 2010, Cory lost his junior middleweight title to Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage via fifth round TKO.
For various reasons, I had to put the Spinks documentary on hold shortly after I began production. For the past three and a half years, I have been living in Los Angeles, CA, pursuing my career as a filmmaker. One day last summer, a light bulb turned on in my mind and it became clear that it was time for me to resume work on “Return Of The Spinks Jinx.” I got Cory’s phone number from Boxingtalk publisher Greg Leon and gave him a call. I wound up flying to St. Louis and meeting with Cory in person to discuss the project. Cory was in favor of this documentary, but I lost track of him shortly after our meeting. For some reason, the timing wasn’t right just yet. On January 28th of this year, I received a call from my friend Dave, a cinematographer who I have collaborated with on a number of projects. Dave suggested that we initiate a project in the near future. I told Dave that I still wanted to make the documentary about the Spinks family. It was ironic that Dave called me on that particular night, because it was the same night that Cory faced and defeated Sechew Powell via unanimous decision.
My intentions were to call Cory the following Monday. When I woke up Monday morning, coincidentally, I received an e-mail from Boxingtalk editor Scott Shaffer asking me if I would interview Cory Spinks. I called Cory and we chatted for a bit. Instead of interviewing him, I wrote a story on the Spinks family history. A few days later, I received an e-mail from the wife of Leon Spinks, thanking me for doing such a nice write-up on their family. Just recently, through a twist of fate, I had to move from Los Angeles back to my hometown of St. Louis. My last night in LA was June 30th, the same night Cory lost his rematch to “K-9” Bundrage via seventh round TKO. While driving through the mountains of Colorado headed for St. Louis, I received a phone call from “K-9” himself, the man who had just defeated my hometown hero. Moments ago, I told “K-9” that I was going to mention him in this article. He asked me to express his respect and admiration for the Spinks family and everything they have accomplished in boxing.
When I first began to envision “Return Of The Spinks Jinx”, all of the necessary components seemed so scattered, but I am now beginning to believe that everything is closely intertwined. I have no idea what the future holds, but I hope that life has brought me back to St. Louis so that I can fulfill my dream of making this documentary. The Spinks family is arguably the most accomplished family to ever put on the gloves. However, their story is about so much more than boxing. The Spinks’s grew up in the city of St. Louis, one of the most violent cities in the United States. A jinx is a pre-destined curse. Some of the people who grow up in the city of St. Louis believe that they, themselves, are jinxed. It’s hard for someone to see beyond the invisible walls that surround their neighborhood when they are faced with poverty and despair on a daily basis. Against all odds, Leon, Michael, and Cory rose above the conditions of their life and did something special for themselves, their families, and the city they came from.
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