by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

LAS VEGAS — Well, the people “in the know” out here are saying Michael Spinks will get his head taken off tonight. They liken the fight to an ant and a boulder. The ant moves around, real quick-like, and, oh, my, see how fast it scurries, how quickly it darts, left, then right, and yes, oh yes, it sure is quick, and then plop! the boulder squashes it dead.

The boulder is Larry Holmes. But you probably figured that out.

“Holmes easily,” the experts say. And the fact that light- heavyweight champ Spinks weighed in at 200 pounds — about 15 pounds more than expected — doesn’t faze them a bit. I even heard one guy call the weight a
“psychological ploy,” which is a pretty neat trick.

No. As sure as a flush beats a straight, they say, so will a heavyweight beat a blown-up light-heavyweight. Every time. And history is on their side, by a score of Heavyweights 13, Light- Heavyweights-Blown-Up-Into-Heavyweights 0.

But Michael Spinks, 29, doesn’t want to know that stuff. He doesn’t want to hear that his right hook may feel like a jab to Holmes, while Holmes’ jab may feel like a right hook to him. He doesn’t want to hear how weird it’s going to feel fighting at such a new, heavy weight.

He just wants to, in his words, “get on with it.” When I asked him what makes him any different from the light- heavyweights before him, he just laughed.

“Oh, man, there’s that question again,” he said. “History. History. I don’t want to hear no more about history.”

What’s that line — those who ignore it are doomed to repeat it? Family of upsets

Well. OK. You hate to write off anyone named Spinks completely, ever since brother Leon’s big upset of Muhammad Ali. But you can learn a lot about a fight by the fighters’ motivation going into it. And why would a light-heavyweight want to move up to take on the heavyweight champ?

I put the question to former champion Archie Moore, who 30 years ago today lost to Rocky Marciano trying to do the same thing as Spinks.

“I can’t tell you why other guys did it,” he said. “You’re asking me to get inside all those guys’ heads.”

All right then, I said, why did he think Spinks might be doing it?

“I don’t know why. I’m not him.”

OK then. Why did Archie Moore do it?

“Why did I do it?” he repeated. He paused for a second, then straightened up and gave a sly grin.

“I did it for the money.”


Now Spinks may not be that mercenary. Then again, maybe he is. He’s expected to make at least $1.5 million for this fight, which is $1.4 million more than he made for his last title defense. Notice that he didn’t bother to take even one warm-up fight as a heavyweight before taking on Holmes. Such a fight would have paid loads in experience but peanuts in purse money.

“If I’m gonna fight heavyweight,” Spinks said, “I’m gonna go right for the big one. Besides, everybody loves an underdog.”

True. But then, nobody ever kissed his way to a title, either.

See, what I think Spinks is forgetting is that this isn’t his fight to win. It’s Holmes’ fight to lose. Almost nobody here, with the possible exception of the bald man who sells umbrellas in the lobby, honestly thinks that Holmes in top form could not whip Spinks in top form. The unknown is Holmes’ condition, how much dust has settled on him at age 35, and how serious he is.

My guess is that Holmes is not treating Spinks like another Gerry Cooney. But he’s not overlooking him either. He doesn’t want to be embarrassed one fight short of Marciano’s record. He’s in decent shape.

Meanwhile, Spinks lacks any of the intangibles that might overcome his experience and weight deficits. Things like anger, intensity, even ego. He just seems to be here for the ride, like those old women permanently posed in front of the slot machines.

There’s a scene in one of those Burt Reynolds fast car movies in which Burt gets into a brawl with a big lug, played by Terry Bradshaw. Burt reels back and unloads his best punch square to Bradshaw’s jaw. And the big guy doesn’t even flinch. He just spits out a tooth, and smiles. And ol’ Burt turns to a buddy and says, “I think we’re in trouble here.”


Watch your head, Michael. Holmes in 6. Holmes vs. Spinks: tale of tape

Holmes Spinks Age 35 29 Weight 221 1/2 200 Height 6-3 6-2 1/2 Reach 81 76 Chest (normal) 43 1/2 38 Chest (expanded) 45 1/2 40 Biceps 15 3/4 13 1/2 Fist 13 1/2 13


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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