Detroit, MI, USA (September 19, 2023) - In the annals of heavyweight boxing history, the 1980s are often considered a lost era of talent. Many talented boxers from that generation fell victim to a myriad of issues, including drug abuse, alcoholism, incarceration, and the politics of the sport. Pinklon Thomas is one name that stands out in this era of unfulfilled promise.
Thomas's story mirrors that of many other heavyweights from that time. Born into a life of hardship, he fell into the clutches of heroin at a young age and soon became addicted, not just to drugs but also to a life of crime. He dropped out of school at fifteen and spiraled into a world of criminality. Boxing ultimately provided a lifeline, saving him from a destructive path, but the drugs would prove harder to leave behind.
Before the grip of addiction took hold, Thomas displayed immense promise as a boxer. He turned professional in 1978 after only three amateur fights and went on an impressive twenty-fight winning streak. In 1983, he faced Gerrie Coetzee in a majority draw, but four more victories earned him a shot at the WBC heavyweight title against Tim Witherspoon in 1984.
His win over Witherspoon and a subsequent victory against Mike Weaver raised hopes for Thomas, but it would prove to be the peak of his career. Hand and eye problems, as well as personal struggles, began to plague him. He ventured into managing and training other fighters and even tried his hand at singing. Thomas's battle with cocaine addiction intensified, and it began to consume him.
Thomas faced Trevor Berbick in 1986 for the WBC heavyweight title but lost on points due to a lackluster performance. His life spiraled further out of control as he struggled with addiction, marriage problems, and career distractions. Despite being the betting favorite, he lost to Berbick, and his dreams of reclaiming the title faded.
In 1987, Thomas faced a young Mike Tyson, who would later claim that Thomas was his toughest-ever opponent. Thomas fought Tyson with an old shoulder injury, and though he was knocked out in the sixth round, he finished the fight on his feet. It marked the end of his attempts to regain his former glory.
Thomas's post-Tyson years saw him battle addiction and health issues. He suffered a stroke before a fight with Evander Holyfield in 1988 and took a break from the sport until 1990. He continued to struggle with addiction and faced defeats against Mike Hunter, Riddick Bowe, and Tommy Morrison.
Despite a winning run that included wins for lesser-known titles, his career dwindled. Thomas's final record stood at 43-7-1, a symbol of the talent that could have achieved much more had it not been for the challenges and demons he faced in his tumultuous journey through the heavyweight division of the 1980s.
Thomas will be celebrated at the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame on September 29th. Get your tickets here