Ali's passing triggers memories of beloved boxer - WNEM TV 5

Ali's passing triggers memories of beloved boxer

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(Source: David Custer) (Source: David Custer)

The passing of Muhammad Ali got me thinking about my uncle, Diamond Jim MacDonald.

Thirty-one years ago on this very day he fought for the Light Heavy Weight Championship of the world against undefeated champ Michael Spinks. My uncle, “Rocky Jim”, as I like to call him had a knockout right hook. You didn’t go in the ring against my uncle without preparing for that right hook.

Ali was often called an unorthodox fighter and my uncle was often talked about in the same way. You would think you had my uncle on the ropes and boom he’d land one of those right arm punches and it was over.

On this day more than 30 years ago my uncle entered the ring at the Riviera in Las Vegas to take on Spinks. My 26-year-old uncle was undefeated, having knocked out 15 of his 16 professional opponents leading up to this fight. Spinks also had an incredible record of 27-0 with 19 knockouts.

The fight went to 1:30 in the eighth round before the referee moved in to stop the fight as Spinks had shattered my uncle’s nose. It meant the dream for my uncle was over for now as Spinks would retain his world light-heavyweight title.

Spinks told reporters that my uncle gave him his, "toughest fight in five years."

My uncle unsuccessfully tried one more time to take the title almost two years later against Bobby Czyz.

I was, and always have been, proud of my uncle for reaching a level in the boxing world that most never reach. It’s hard to believe when I look back how much he achieved. When you’re a kid, you don’t realize these things when it’s the norm that your uncle is a professional boxer.

Today, he lives a very humble life. You wouldn’t know anything about his boxing career unless you know to ask about it.

Nearly 10 years ago I did a story about him and took him back in to the ring one more time. It was an emotional moment and the spirited fighter inside him came to life once again.

The story brought me many accolades even winning me an Emmy Award. I hope you enjoy the story. You never know who’s around you as the guy cleaning off your table could’ve been a champion fighter like my uncle “Rocky Jim.” 

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