On July 31, 1976, St. Louis brothers Michael and Leon Spinks made history by taking gold medals in Olympic boxing. Here was the Post-Dispatch's original coverage of that event.
MONTREAL - St. Louisans Michael and Leon Spinks, the greatest brother combination in the history of world amateur boxing, joined Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman on Saturday as Olympic gold medal winners on a night that was the greatest in United States amateur boxing history.
In all, the Americans won seven medals — five gold, one silver and one bronze — in what was their biggest harvest since 1904 when the Games were held at St. Louis.
The U.S. captured seven golds and seven silvers at St. Louis during the World's Fair, but their seemingly awesome performance has to be listed with an asterisk because there were only Americans at the Games.
The five golds match the best previous U.S. total (in 1952, which was Patterson's year). The U.S.. won three golds in 1960, which was the year of Ali (aka Cassius Clay).
St. Louis can rightfully claim to be the country's amateur boxing capital now with the stunning victories by the Spinks brothers Saturday night at the Forum.
And, speaking of titles, the U.S. ought to claim world supremacy, too, because not only did these spunky Americans whip the powerful Cubans in the gold total (5 to 3), they also defeated Cuba in all three head-to-head matches.
Michael unloaded his lethal right hand on Russia's Rufat Riskiev in the third round and won on a technical knockout at 1 minute 54 seconds when the referee stopped the fight.
Leon also won with a TKO, taking the feared right that Cuba's Sixto Soria demonstrated so viciously in the early rounds of the tournament away by staying inside.
Leon hurt the wiry Cuban in the first round with a right that staggered him. In the second, he knocked Soria's mouthpiece out and in the third he stung Soria with a right that dropped the Cuban to the canvas at 2:05. The referee ended the fight at 1:09.
"This is the finest team we have ever assembled in the U.S.," said team manager Rollie Schwartz, who along with coaches Pat Nappi and Tom (Sarge) Johnson must get most of the credit for the rebuilding of amateur boxing in America. The U.S. came into the Games rated behind Cuba, Russia and Poland and exited on top.
"Sure," continued Schwartz, "we won five golds in 1952 but remember there weren't as many countries fighting then as there are now. And the Cubans and Eastern European nations weren't as strong then, either."
The other U.S. winners Saturday night were flyweight Leo Randolph, 18 years old, of Tacoma, Wash., who decisioned Cuba's Raymond Duvalon, 3-2; lightweight Howard Davis, 20, of Glen Cove, N.Y., who decisioned Romania's Simion Cutov, 5-0, and light welterweight Sugar Ray Leonard, 20, of Palmer Mark, Md., who decisioned Cuba's Andres Aldama, 5-0.
Of the six American fighters that made it to the finals, only bantamweight Charles Mooney, 25, of Fayetteville, N.C., didn't survive. He lost to North Korea's Jo Young Gu, 5-0.
"Those Spinkses," said Schwartz, "have chins of granite. The Cubans battered everyone they faced until they came up against these two guys and they didn't even faze them.
"Remember, I told everyone before these Games even started that, pound for pound, Michael was the strongest puncher on the team. He was the sleeper."
Michael, a middleweight, won his gold with only two bouts. He draw a bye, won by forfeit twice and defeated Poland's Ryszard Pasiewicz, 5-0, in his lone preliminary test.
His victory over Riskiev avenged a loss to the Russian in January in the Soviet Union. He dropped Riskiev in the second round with a right and slammed him for standing eight counts twice in the third.
At 1:06 of the third, Riskiev claimed he had been hit by a low blow and the referee warned Michael. For a few frightening moments, there was the possibility that Michael might be disqualified.
"I knew it wasn't," said Michael. "The blow glanced off of him right at the waistline." Riskiev came to Michael's corner after the fight was ended and wagged a finger at him, as if to warn him he wouldn't tolerate any such funny stuff if they would ever meet again.
"I think he wanted to stop so bad he had to make up an excuse for his coaches," said Michael. "You never know what those coaches in Russia will say to their fighters if they lose, the Olympic games (Riskiev) told me I hit him low.
"I was getting to him. I was scoring and he wasn't. The Russian said, 'What the hell, I can't hurt him and he's hurting me. To hell with the gold, I'll take the silver . . .' "
With that, Michael threw back his head and laughed. Mrs. Kay Spinks spoke briefly with her sons before their fights.
"I saw her," said Michael, "and, man, if I hadn't I think I would have' cracked up."
And what did he say to her?
"Hello mama," he answered. "That's all you ever say. After that, it's 'Uh huh and yes ma'm.' She can rap."
Asked what he thought of the double-gold sweep by himself and Leon, Michael said: "It's really unexpressable. All I could do was smile. It took my breath away."
Leon, a lance corporal in the Marine Corps, did not lose a round in five fights here. Two of his victories came on knockouts.
Leon said he was more nervous watching Michael's bout than he was for his own.
"He's my kid brother (Michael is 20, Leon is 23)," said Leon, "And I was scared for him. I was pulling for him and I asked the Lord to take care of him."