Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Boxing Glove Book Review: One Punch From The Promised Land

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov
"One Punch From The Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title"  By John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro

“One Punch From The Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title" is the story of the Spinks brothers, Leon and Michael, and how they used boxing as a way to escape the life of hardship and poverty that they had both been born into together.

The two brothers, Leon and Michael Spinks,grew up in St Louis, in the notorious Pruitt-Igoe housing project. Leon, born on July 11, 1953, and Michael, born on July 13, 1956, became Olympic Gold medallists together in the 1976 Games, then both would become world champions as professionals. Eventually, the two men would become the first brothers to both win the World heavyweight title, with Leon scoring a famous win over Muhammad Ali in 1978. Michael scored an upset victory over Larry Holmes in 1985, after having held the World light-heavyweight championship for a number of years previously.

Despite their shared triumphs in the roped square, Leon and Michael were two very different men, and two very different fighters, and as their professional careers progressed, their lives, both inside and outside, the ring took very different routes.

While Michael took a steady route to the WBA world light-heavyweight title (which he won July 18, 1981, with a point’s decision over Eddie Mustafa Muhammad). Leon blazed a spectacularly meteoric charge to the World heavyweight championship, which he won with a shocking upset point’s victory over Muhammad Ali on February 15, 1978. Leon had been a professional for just a little over a year, and was having just his 8th professional fight when he beat the legendary Ali.

After beating Ali, Leon became an overnight phenomenon. But if Leon’s rise to the heavyweight title and stardom had been meteoric, his fall back down to the ground would be even more spectacular and ultimately devastating. Within a few weeks of him winning the world championship, the stories coming out from an ever story- hungry press changed, from the complimentary to the critical. It became more clear with every passing day that Leon was overwhelmed by the scale of his achievement and the fame and attention that it had attracted. Soon he was embroiled in a victory party, which would last the best part of the next decade.

Just seven months after his improbable victory over ‘The Greatest,’ an ill-prepared Leon was beaten in the rematch with Ali. It was the start of a long spiral down to almost where he had started. By the time Michael won the WBA world light heavyweight title from Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, in July 1981, Leon was effectively burnt out as a fighter. Ruined by devastating defeats in the ring and a no- holds-barred party life outside of the ring.

“One Punch from The Promised Land” is a fascinating study of how two brothers from the same background react to success and fame in such drastically different ways. Michael, in contrast to Leon, would go from strength to strength. After defending his World light-heavyweight title successfully 10 times, he would then move up to heavyweight, pull off a huge upset by beating Larry Holmes, and winning the World heavyweight championship. He became the first World light-heavyweight champion to successfully move up and win the World heavyweight championship.  He would go on to be defeated just once in his career, by Mike Tyson, in his final fight.

John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro do a great job in this book of peeling back the glamorous fa├žade of the boxing game and revealing the darker, shark-infested elements of the sweet science. We see how in differing degrees, boxing offered both Spinks brothers an escape route from their impoverished childhood, but also a trap. It is a trap that so many boxers fall into at the end of their careers, one that can leave them broken and damaged if they fail to escape from it in time. 

Both Spinks brothers come through this book as courageous and all too human. Leon, for all his mishaps, wild living, and the self-destruction of his boxing career, still achieved the remarkable.

“One Punch from the Promised Land is a fascinating exploration of success and failure, both in and out of the boxing ring. It is especially a fascinating read for all those who want to know what was going on behind the scenes in the heavyweight division during the 1970s and 80s. This book offers a lingering, often unflattering insight into the world of professional boxing, and the fight of two brothers seeking to better their lives by using it.
Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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