- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The 26-year-old Spinks, who was undefeated in 22 fights and had 18 knockouts going into the Braxton bout, is lean and tall (6'2½"). He's a stand-up fighter whose jab sets up crushing punches with both hands—hooks and uppercuts. He's regarded as one of the true bangers in the sport today.
"Braxton will swarm at me for as long as he can, if he can," Spinks said before the fight. "But he's human. He don't run by batteries, either. Punches affect him. In the process of swarming, he's got to get hit. I'll do all I can to keep my distance and hit him when he comes in." Asked about his jab, Spinks said enigmatically, "Ask me about my jab after the fight."
Braxton's plan was to exert pressure and wear down Spinks with a take-it-to-'im attack. "He can fight either one, two or three ways," Braxton said of Spinks. "The question is whether he's going to run, grab and hold or fight me back. I can see him trying to hold on. Whichever way he fights, I'll be there. I know what I've got to do. I'm the champ. Both titles are on the line. I guess you can call me the underdog; but I like that. The little guy beating up the big guy. That's some people's fantasy. And I welcome the challenge."
In fact, Spinks was the 7-5 favorite by fight time, and that undoubtedly stemmed from reports that Braxton was still suffering from a severe cold he'd caught two weeks before while training in Myrtle Beach, S.C. At a time when he should have been working out rigorously, he had to ease up. At a press conference three days before the fight, Braxton spoke in distinctly nasal tones, but denied he was still ailing. "I was sick," he said. "But I'm through the worst of it. I sweated it out. I'm strong. I'm ready."
He had been fighting the cold for almost two weeks. "We kept him off his feet as long as we could," said co-trainer Quenzell McCall. "We loaded him up with grapefruit and orange juice and gave him aspirin and plenty of rest. And a doctor gave him penicillin. We were concerned that he might develop a fever, but fortunately he didn't."
Meanwhile, Spinks trained hard, sparring ferociously, pounding the heavy and speed bags and jumping rope. If there was any concern about Spinks's condition, it had to do with his emotional state. Since last January, when his common-law wife, Sandy Massey, was killed in an automobile accident in Philadelphia, leaving him to care for their 2-year-old daughter, Michelle, Spinks has been walking a psychological tightrope. Four days before the fight, when a reporter asked him about Sandy, he broke down and wept. At a press conference the next day, promoter Lewis beseeched writers not to raise the subject. No one did.
"That has nothing to do with the fight," Spinks told a reporter later in the week. "As far as that goes, only God knows. I wish you would all stop bringing it up to me."
But the most jarring incident of all, the one that most disturbed those around Spinks, occurred in the dressing room just before the fight, when Spinks was waiting to be called to the ring. With 10 minutes to go, Sandy Massey's sister, Sibby, brought Michelle in to see her father. "I was just so stunned to see my baby," Spinks said later. To make matters worse, the first words out of her mouth were, "Where's Mommy?"
"I couldn't hang on," recalled Spinks. "I couldn't say nothing. I couldn't take it. What can you say to her when she asks that?"
"Michael went to pieces," said one of his trainers, Eddie Futch. "You knew it was hard for him to get his mind on the fight."