Spinks aims for encore in rematch vs. Judah

147-pound champion won 12-round decision in 2004


February 05, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Behind an emotionless face and dark glasses, Cory Spinks ignored Ricardo Mayorga's reference to his late mother and slain brother during a news conference before their December 2003 matchup for the undisputed welterweight crown.

"I will reunite you with your family upstairs," Mayorga told Spinks, who was born five days after his father, Leon, shocked the boxing world by defeating Muhammad Ali. But Spinks had heard similar talk before, having grown up in a St. Louis neighborhood where "it was basically about survival - killing here and killing there."

"Where I come from, dudes like [Mayorga] come a dime a dozen," Spinks said. "Boxing's an art: I'm going to paint me a beautiful picture with this dude."

The pencil-thin fighter jabbed, moved and eluded the wild punches and ferocity of Mayorga, adding his opponent's World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association 147-pound crowns to his International Boxing Federation belt.

In defeat, Mayorga kissed Spinks' hand and wrapped the three belts around his conqueror's waist. Leon Spinks cried in the ring, and Cory was hugged by his uncle, Michael, who once upset Larry Holmes for the heavyweight crown.

Tonight, before a sellout crowd of 20,655 at the Savvis Center in St. Louis, Spinks (34-2, 11 knockouts) vows to deliver another virtuoso performance in his defense against Zab Judah (32-2, 23 KOs) of Brooklyn, N.Y., in a rematch of left-handers.

In April 2004, Spinks won a unanimous, 12-round decision over Judah, a former junior welterweight (140 pounds) titlist. Spinks floored Judah, 27, in the 11th round but had to rise from the canvas himself in the last round.

"I'm going into this fight clearheaded, ready to handle my business," said Spinks, 26. . "It's been a dream to defend in St. Louis, show them what kind of champion they have. This fight is life and death."

A win in the Showtime-televised fight could earn Spinks a megabucks match with Oscar De La Hoya, who is considering a return to the welterweight (147) ranks he dominated before campaigning at 154 (junior middleweight) and 160 (middleweight).

As Spinks enters the ring tonight, gyrating a hip-hop dance taught him by his deceased brother, thoughts of his mother, who died of a heart attack, will weigh heavy on his heart. Leon Spinks said he will be at ringside, having reconciled with the son he admits having failed to be around during his youth.

"My dad had his own life. I was more close to my mom. She was my backbone," said Cory Spinks. "But once my mom passed, my daddy started playing that dad role. I embraced him. I see where I get some of my personality from. He's a cool guy."

Married, with a daughter and living in a suburb of St. Louis, Cory Spinks is "more grounded," and, "not as wild as when I lived in the city."

That is unlike his father, whose life spiraled downward after his victory over Ali. During the seven months before losing the rematch to Ali - a fight for which the newly crowned champ reportedly trained less than two weeks - Leon Spinks was arrested four times on charges that included cocaine possession.

Spinks went 17-17-2 over the rest of his career and retired in 1996 with a 26-17-3 record.

"Getting my life back together was very hard," said the elder Spinks. "But I made my mind up to get closer to my son."

Cory Spinks' patient, yet effective style goes largely unappreciated by today's knockout-hungry fans. More acclaim is given to both junior welterweight champ Kostya Tszyu, who stopped Judah in two rounds in November 2001, and middleweight Felix Trinidad, who did the same to Mayorga in eight rounds in October.

"We were willing to fight Kostya Tszyu, even willing to fight Felix Trinidad," Cory Spinks said. "But sometimes, that isn't the way the ball bounces.

"I haven't turned down any fights. I've given boxing what it needs - real champions. I'm prepared to box, I'm prepared to fight, I'm prepared to do whatever. I'm all about fighting the best. I'm ready to go."

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