In 1978, boxer Leon Spinks shocked the sports world by defeating Muhammad Ali in a lopsided 15-round split decision. Now with his boxing days far behind him, the 66-year-old now finds himself in the midst of an even more important fight: the battle for his life.
USA Today reports that the former heavyweight champ was diagnosed with prostate cancer last June and has since undergone three rounds of chemotherapy that failed to prevent the spread of the disease to his bones. In November, doctors put him on a ventilator and gave him only two weeks to live, but clearly they underestimated the boxing great’s resilience.
“He’s a champion,” his wife Brenda said. “He’s going to keep fighting.”
Thankfully, that fight includes keeping Brenda in his corner, who not only crushes all seven pills he’s required to digest every morning, but also injects them into his feeding tube. It’s an unglamorous part of his daily regimen that also includes smoking marijuana to help regulate his mood.
“I’m so against it and now I’m going to dispensaries to buy it,’’ she said. “It’s the only way I can get him to cooperate.”
To complicate matters, Spinks also suffers from dementia. While he’s lost his ability to pummel opponents in the ring, he’s never lost his will to persevere. This includes pushing himself to host private autograph sessions in order to offset exorbitant medical costs.
Case in point, his prescription for Zytiga, a medication for prostate cancer survivors who have already undergone chemotherapy, costs a jaw-dropping $8,000 a bottle. Thankfully, his first bottle was free, but Spinks has been forced to cover the cost himself since January.
“I think you can get it cheaper,’’ Brenda said. “I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet.’’
In the past year, the wheelchair-bound Spinks has lost 80 pounds—he’s down to 194—and he can thank his caregiver and various family members for providing nearly around-the-clock care at his Henderson, Nev., home. And despite his prognosis, Spinks has every intention of continuing the battle to regain his health.
“I’m just so happy that he’s here and we’re just going to keep working at making things better,’’ Brenda said. “We’re not going to give up. We’re not throwing in the towel.”