|Michael Spinks Sues Butch Lewis Estate!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Nov 2, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
It was no surprise to this writer when
I heard former Olympic Gold medalist, light heavyweight and
heavyweight champion Michael Spinks was suing the estate of his
former manager/promoter Butch Lewis. Lewis died July 23rd at the age of 65 and by his funeral August 1st all funding
to Spinks would be cut off. Seems there were no written provisions
for Spinks in the 1999 will of Lewis.
In October Spinks finally realized
Lewis still controlled him and his money from his grave. It seems to me that Lewis
always kept a “short leash” on Spinks. I remember trying to
interview Spinks for a story I was doing on the 1976 Olympic team
that he was part of. I could not get any satisfaction from the New
York office of Lewis. I was told by his teammates there was a time
Lewis would take phone calls from reporters and writers and say he
was Spinks and do the interview. If it was true or not, it was something I wanted none of, so I opted not to chase down the interview.
In November of 2008 the last of Lewis’
fighters one Faruq Saleem was fighting at the New Alhambra against
journeyman Willie Perryman, 10-16. Whenever Saleem fought in
Phiadelphia, Lewis and Spinks would be there. It was his third
straight fight in Philadelphia for Saleem and the 6:07 Newark, NJ,
native was in his thirty-eighth fight and twenty-eighth non-winning
record opponent. I gather Lewis was “closing in” on Rocky
Marciano’s 49-0 record with Saleem being 37-0.
Saleem debuted in 1998 defeating James
Holly, 4-49 and followed-up with Doug Davis, 8-33-1, Rocky Bentley,
11-75-1, Frankie Hines, 14-94-4 (twice) and Danny Wofford, 17-95-2.
By the way, in his next fight in September of 2009 he was defeated
for the first time by Shawn McLean, 3-4, by stoppage at Manchester,
NH, in 4 rounds and hasn’t fought since. His unbeaten streak was
stopped at 38.
Spinks was sitting behind Lewis when I
approached him with a 3-ring binder with stories I had written on his
1976 teammates and one on him with numerous questions and my phone
number. I never heard back from Spinks which disappointed me.
My first encounter with Lewis was in
the Joe Frazier Gym when the former heavyweight champion “Smokin”
Joe Frazier was throwing him out of his office. “Go back to DE and
sell your used cars,” said Frazier. My next experience was at the
Philadelphia MLK Arena in 1981 when I approached Lewis and asked him
who Robert White was? He answered “what’s it to you?” I
chuckled to myself knowing how the card was set up to defeat the
“white boy’s” under the main event of Spinks and Willie Taylor.
I couldn’t figure how Lewis felt by
defeating the ticket sellers he was going to make any money. Future
IBF light middleweight champion Buster Drayton, 7-1-1 stopped Dan
Snyder, 12-13, in 3. Future WBA heavyweight champion “Terrible”
Tim Witherspoon, 6-0, knocked out Ed Bednarik, 4-0, in the first
round. Marty Capasso, 12-0, was fighting substitute White, 5-1, and
having his hands full until an accidental clash of heads produced a
cut to White which lead to his stoppage in the fifth and a win for
Capasso. In an upset Mike “Youngblood” Williams, 15-1-2, of
Philadelphia met tough Joe “TNT” Tiberi, 15-3, out of DE. Tiberi
put Williams out in the sixth and into permanent retirement. Seems
the “Italians” had come and conquered.
Getting back to the subject of this
story it was no secret to most of us in the game Lewis was a hustler
who came from a well to do family in which his father had a car
business. Lewis some claim was a “Don King Wannabe”.
Serving as one of the executors of
Lewis’ $8.5 million estate, is billionaire Robert L. Johnson,
founder of Black Entertainment Television, and a defendant in the
suit. The other is Leonard L. Williams, a Wilmington-based lawyer,
and former Municipal Court judge. It’s been surmised that Spinks
made $24 million in his career including $13.6 million in his last
fight with Mike Tyson in which Lewis received the same amount.
Also filing a lawsuit is Louise
Cummings, 31, longtime girlfriend, business associate and VP of Butch
Lewis Productions in Manhattan, NY, in the 18 months before he died.
Per Cummings Spinks would receive approximately 6-7k per month and
half a dozen times a year get a check for 5k each time.
Spinks’ home was paid off though it
has been rumored he has sold it and is moving back into the
Wilmington area. Expenses such as electric and gas, property taxes,
health insurance, phone, lawn care, legal and accounting services
were paid on a monthly basis. He would also pay 2k per month in
child support for his son. Its been reported that Lewis had custody of the 6 championship
belts and hundreds of tapes of Spinks fights.
What Spinks thought would be a lifetime
of monthly payments and checks upon request ended with the death of
Lewis. Spinks had to go to his pension and retirement funds to start
paying the bills. It seems about $3.6 million of the Lewis $8.6
million would go to his 4 children, 4 grandchildren and relatives.
Let’s hope Michael Spinks has learned
from this or maybe as long as the checks were coming in and the bills
were being paid he was satisfied. What he expected to receive for a
lifetime ended in the lifetime of Lewis. At 57 let’s hope we don’t
read in the headlines “Michael Spinks makes comeback against Faruq
Saleem in Wilmington”!
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