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27 Apr 2012

Terry Spinks, who won boxing gold at the 1956 Olympics at the age of only 18, has died at the age of 74.

East Londoner Spinks, the youngest Briton to win an Olympic boxing gold medal, died at his Essex home after a long illness.

The baby-faced Spinks, who was an apprentice jockey before concentrating on boxing, won flyweight gold in Melbourne having been a late replacement.

Spinks, who clinched the British featherweight crown as a professional, won 41 of his 49 professional fights and was awarded an MBE in 2002.

The son of a West Ham bookmaker, Spinks, who remains the only boxer to be schoolboy, ABA, British and Olympic champion, started boxing at the age of nine with the West Ham Amateur Boxing Club, which later produced two-weight world champion Nigel Benn and British super-featherweight champion Kevin Mitchell.

He was working as a binman when the call came to join Great Britain's Olympic team and only had a week to prepare before leaving for Australia.

Spinks, who was originally overlooked by the selectors because of his age and youthful looks, beat Romania's Mircea Dobrescu in the final.

Spinks turned pro the following year and had a short - in terms of years - career in the paid ranks, retiring at the age of 24.

However, he won the British featherweight title in 1960 with a stoppage of Bobby Neill and defended the Lonsdale Belt twice before losing to Welsh legend Howard Winstone in 1961.

Spinks became a trainer, coaching the South Korean team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and raised the alert when he witnessed the Black September terrorists approaching the Israeli quarters.

After a lengthy battle with alcoholism, Spinks fell ill and in later years was looked after by his cousin Rosemary Ellmore and her husband Terry.

A long campaign led by the Ellmores led to Spinks finally being awarded an MBE, fellow Melbourne gold-medalist Dick McTaggart having received one 17 years previously.

Despite his failing health, Spinks, an East End legend, remained a fixture at meetings of the London ex-Boxers' Association until shortly before his death.


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