LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks is in a Las Vegas hospital after a second operation for abdominal problems.
The 61-year-old boxer, who catapulted to fame by beating Muhammad Ali in 1978, had the second surgery in recent days after complications from the first emergency surgery, his wife said.
“It’s going to be a long road ahead, but he’s strong and he’s starting to recover,” Brenda Spinks told The Associated Press.
Brenda Spinks said she doesn’t know how long her husband will be hospitalized, but that she’s optimistic about his recovery.
“There were complications after his first surgery, but everything has been fixed,” she said.
Earlier, singer Tony Orlando sent out a tweet asking people to pray for Spinks, a good friend of his. Orlando wrote that Spinks was “facing the greatest fight of his life.”
Spinks and younger brother Michael both won Olympic gold medals in 1976 in different weight classes and went on to become heavyweight champions. Leon’s rise was meteoric — he got a shot at Ali and the heavyweight title on Feb. 15, 1978, after just seven pro fights.
Few in boxing — including Ali — gave Spinks any chance in the fight, but he used his energy and awkward style to frustrate Ali and win a 15-round split decision at the Las Vegas Hilton. But he lost the title back to Ali in their rematch seven months later before more than 60,000 people at the Superdome in New Orleans.