Lee Groves

10: Most notable St. Louis title fights

March 27, 2008, Scottrade Center – Verno Phillips W 12 Cory Spinks

Less than a month before this fight, Spinks jettisoned longtime trainer Kevin Cunningham in favor of veteran St. Louis gym veteran and amateur trainer Buddy Shaw. Not only that, Spinks also added his father, former heavyweight champion Leon, and his Hall of Famer uncle Michael to the team. Cunningham would still be in the building, for he was seconding Devon Alexander on the undercard against Miguel Callist.

The 38-year-old Phillips, one of the youngest junior middleweight kings when he won his first belt 15 years earlier, now was trying to become the oldest man to capture a 154-pound title. Along the way he fought – and beat – many top-rated opponents such as Gianfranco Rosi, Santos Cardona, Julian Jackson and Bronco McKart but lost to some good ones as well (Kassim Ouma twice and Ike Quartey). Because he kept himself in remarkable condition his body was still able to fluidly execute his mind’s commands.

That experience enabled Phillips to find openings in Spinks’ usually reliable defense, at least enough of them to build a lead on the scorecards. Most of the bout was fought on Spinks’ terms as he used his skills and mobility to keep Phillips at a distance. But while he moved well, Spinks didn’t land many clean, hard shots. Conversely, Phillips doggedly pursued Spinks and produced most of the eye-catching connects, though he wasn’t able to sustain them long enough to produce an indelible imprint.

Most of the action was tepid and the bout’s best moments came in the ninth when they engaged in rare trench warfare. Two of the judges rewarded Phillips’ aggression with 116-112 and 115-113 scorecards while the third jurist viewed it 115-113 for Spinks, whose days as a junior middleweight champion were nowhere near finished.

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