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SOLVING A RIDDLE: Why Cory Spinks Deserves Respect

Jan 27, 2004: By Wayne Richardson

Cory Spinks has experienced no shortage of ups and downs since he first entered the ring as a pro in late 1997, but whether it is being on the losing side of two controversial decisions or facing personal tragedies, he’s been through all situations with dignity and quiet reserve. So when labelled as no more than a tune up for Ricardo Mayorga in their December 13 unification bout he handled it much in the same way. Spinks calmly stuck to his game plan, succeeded in doing what Vernon Forrest or Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis couldn’t, and stopped Mayorga’s charge through the welterweight division.

Although this accomplishment should have earned Spinks the respect he deserves, it still eluded him as it has throughout most of his career. Instead of praise for making Mayorga look amateurish by avoiding his wild charges and countering effectively Cory was criticized for running and not standing toe to toe with him, although that option would clearly be the incorrect approach. This couldn’t have been more evident then in the case of Ricardo’s last two opponents who he knocked out. So in this tale lies the riddle of the Spinks, Why can’t “the Next Generation” get any respect?

Proper promotion is very important in a young fighter’s career if he hopes to gather a fan base large enough to become a headline attraction. He must be hyped and exposed as much as possible early on to become known. Having the name Spinks should have made this undertaking a marketing dream, but early promoter Bob Arum couldn’t seem to make it happen and Cory with the exception of appearances on ESPN quietly slipped away from the consciousness of fight fans. He did manage to earn a shot at Vernon Forrest’s vacated IBF Welterweight title, but was the victim of “home cooking” when he travelled to Italy to face Michele Piccirillo.

This was the last fight in the contract with Arum and with Don King guaranteeing Spinks only chance for a quick rematch with Piccirillo, he signed on with DKP. While this did get him a second chance no American interest was generated for the fight and Corey again went back to Italy to challenge for the title. He won so convincingly this time that even the Italian judges couldn’t deny him the belt. But with no North American television present very few fans even knew he won (So unknown was Cory that after meeting him in Vegas and posing for a photo, one fan asked me if I was talking to SNL star Tracey Morgan?). While this win didn’t garner Spinks any main stream recognition, it put him into a position to unify against Don King’s highly promoted wild child Ricardo Mayorga. So sure of Mayorga’s chances of winning that they had already signed for him to face 154 lb star Shane Mosley after beating Spinks, but they had underestimated Cory’s skill and discipline.

He used his exceptional skills to thoroughly outbox and frustrate Ricardo who didn’t help matters by losing points for hitting after the bell and holding. This win did bring Spinks into the limelight and hopefully better promotion, but he still has to face cynics of his boxing style.

Corey Spinks is a masterful boxer who is quick and slick. He is also a southpaw who rarely sets down on his punches and is defensive minded. Unfortunately this style doesn’t bring the knockouts that many fans crave and he’s been unfairly labelled as unexciting or too cautious. While a knockout is exciting and a slugfest is an adrenaline rush it is only a single dimension of boxing and to fully appreciate the sport in its purest form you have to see a cerebral performance.

To watch Cory Spinks control a ring is such a thing; he thinks with every move, anticipates his opponents attack and shifts out of the way of danger, uses the jab to control the pace, slips punches and comes back quick with counter punches.

He constantly is moving and frustrates other boxers with such elusiveness that they often resort to illegal tactics, but yet, Cory remains composed. He was matador to El Matador’s bull charges and showed off his skills in the third round of their match when he evaded a wild rush by Mayorga, slipped two wide punches, countered with a straight left turned Ricardo and hit him with a second left and evacuated the danger zone. It is a brilliant sequence that shows how good he is and can be seen numerous times throughout his fights. Cory has by boxing smartly given himself longevity in the sport and the ability to retire without serious health threats, a very important factor that Buddy McGirt has been stressing to Arturo Gatti. Gatti’s new style is to box rather than brawl and has been working well if you consider he’s won his last two fights and not been cut seriously in either match, but you wonder will he be judged non-exciting too? (Likely not).

If a boxer is to become known without promotion then he must become notorious to create his own press. He can trash talk, claim to smoke during training or get arrested and it will get him noticed, possibly even admired by some. Another way is to also beat marquee fighters. This is much of the way Mayorga became known, by defeating Vernon Forrest twice, smoking the cigarette handed to him by HBO analyst Larry Merchant during the post fight interview and being a general @##hole to his opponents during press conferences.

It worked well for him, but for Cory Spinks being infamous won’t work; he’s quiet, not a trash talker or a trouble maker and is a good father to his daughter. He is also a well disciplined fighter with loyalty to his friend and trainer Kevin Cunningham. But while these are all qualities that people should strive for in everyday life, in boxing they don’t generate interest and fortunately I don’t expect Spinks to change.

This is not the only issue he faces; strangely enough Cory’s last name may be more of a hindrance than help as he is sometimes overshadowed by the legacies his father and Uncle created in their own careers when the name Spinks is referred to, although the televised win over Mayorga has lessened this factor.

Although Cory did beat a name opponent in Ricardo he didn’t get the full recognition he deserved when many of the same critics who picked him to lose also said it was matter of time until a boxer exposed Mayorga’s lack of skill, thus taking shine off his win. To make matters worse, many of the other top level fighters in and around Spinks division choose to avoid him in favor of easier matches or bigger money creating the problem of having no one left to make a career defining fight from. He will now have to wait until they have no choice, but to face him or be content to fight mandatory challengers like Bernard Hopkins.

I realise people will say that Zab Judah is a name opponent and maybe if they were equally matched I would agree, but I think it will be a case of a good big man beats a good little man. Judah is 3 inches shorter, has a 10 inch reach disadvantage and will be a small welterweight with a suspect chin. He is also facing a stronger, smarter fighter who happens to be faster as well a fellow southpaw. Cory is not going to stand in front of him like Rangel to be hit or be as passive as Demarcus Corley was, so even if Judah can carry his power up with him he will never land it flush on the elusive Spinks. And that’s if he can make it past the jab. I think that even with Cory’s lack of power, if he catches Zab coming in or off a counter he could put him on his seat although Judah’s heart will never keep him there. It will be a win for Spinks that will get him noticed, but not like a Margarito or Forrest match up would.

Cory Spinks may not be getting the respect he deserves just yet and he does have some obstacles to overcome, but that’s just a matter of time. He is the Undisputed Welterweight Champion of the World and will be for a while so the recognition is sure to follow as people discover his talents and genial personality are the real thing. Cory is a young champion at 25, talented and the man to beat at 147. So there is time for the riddle to be solved and his value appreciated. But for now the one thing for sure is; The Spinks legacy now belongs to the “Next Generation”.

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