Larry Holmes – Respect Due

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When I read this morning that Larry Holmes was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame, it put a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

 

The Easton Assassin represents a poignant time in my childhood; as a six-year old, I was beginning to watch sports on a regular basis with my dad and started to chose favorites, (Unfortunately, the Eagles were one of those choices) Holmes was someone that I liked. Holmes became Heavyweight Champion in 1978 defeating Ken Norton, however my first memory of Holmes was his fight against Ernie Shavers, who may have been the meanest looking man in the ring I had ever seen – he had the look of a killer. Well in the 7th round against Holmes on September 28, 1979 Shavers hit Holmes with a right hand that dropped him quicker than he wanted to fall. Holmes would recover to win the fight and retain his title. I was sold after that. And besides – I dug those red and white PONY boxing shoes.

 

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Fighting For His Crown

 

If I had to put a tag on Holmes’ career it would be that it was a Catch 22 – it was always damned if you do – damned if you don’t. This was never more evident than against his fight with his aging mentor and sparring partner Muhammad Ali in October of 1980. Ali was on a quest to be the first man to win the World Heavyweight title an unprecedented four times. In an emotional bout Holmes defeated Ali in a fight that he really didn’t want to fight. Here he was, the young lion of the heavyweight division and he had to face the man that was instrumental in his development. Ali was loved and no doubt the sentimental favorite – so what chance did Holmes have, if he lost – he would not be deserving of the title, and if he won – so what, he beat an old Ali. No points gained, no respect.

 

Respect seemed to be something that was hard to come by for Holmes – he wasn’t as charismatic as Ali and was by most accounts a quiet man that went about his work with the precision of a surgeon. He called himself the People’s Champion because he saw himself as a common man who just happened to be heavyweight champion. Holmes took on all comers Mike Weaver, the late Trevor Berbeck (prior to their fight outside a club, in which Holmes tries to kick Berbeck by jumping off of the roof of his limo), Tim Witherspoon, Renaldo Snipes and Leon Spinks. This was during a time when the Heavyweight division was at it’s best – Joe Frazier and George Foreman had retired a few years prior. Power notwithstanding Holmes used his signature jab – gained from training with Ali, to pick his opponents apart. They knew the jab was coming – there was just no way to avoid it.

 

Holmes’ defining fight was against Gerry Cooney on June 11, 1982, greatly significant because Cooney, who is white was considered a threat to Holmes’ title thus becoming boxing’s Great White Hope. In the months leading up to the fight it developed a racial undertone turn as both camps trained – splitting the country in two.

 

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Critical Beat down

 

This was my first encounter with race and sports, I remember seeing a lot of Jesse Jackson and Don King as the fight drew closer. On the night of the fight Holmes was dealt the worst courtesy to a World Champion – he was introduced first – a custom reserved for the challenger. Despite enduring a memorable low blow that I hate to think about to this day Holmes battered Cooney on his way to a 13-round TKO. An overwhelmed Holmes wept after the fight.

 

Larry Holmes was his own man in and out of the ring:

 

  • He was not intimidated by the media nor would he bite his tongue for them.
  • Holmes always pointed out the fact that he knew white amerikkka didn’t want him as champion. And that they had it in for him.
  • He knew his place in history – and didn’t mind sharing it.
  • The first athlete that I remember who had multi-businesses in his town – Easton, Pa. is practically owned by Holmes.

 

If beating Cooney didn’t grab the ire of white amerikkka, Holmes’ comments about former Heavyweight Champion Rocky Marciano would.

On September 21,1985 Holmes faced light heavyweight Michael Spinks who was looking to make history as the first light heavyweight in the modern era to win the heavyweight title. Holmes was looking to make a little history of his own – Holmes was one victory away from tying Marciano for most consecutive wins by a heavyweight (49). Holmes would loose a close decision to Spinks, ending his title defense streak at 20 – second most by a heavy weight (Joe Louis 25 and third longest in history). When questioned about the record Holmes responded. “If you want to get technical about Rocky Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap.”

 

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Controversy?

 

You can imagine how things went for Holmes from there; he would lose the rematch with Spinks and retire, get knocked out by Mike Tyson and retire. In 1995, at age 45, Holmes came within 1-point on two scorecards of winning the Heavyweight title from Oliver McCall. He would be in and out of the ring until the age of 52.

 

I never got to see as much of Ali in his prime as I would have liked outside of the old footage. But in watching the bulk of Larry Holmes’ career and seeing the damage that his jab did to his opponents. I realize that Holmes may be the closest fighter to Ali as far as boxing style that I may get.

 

Holmes title reign bridges the gap between Ali and Tyson, looking at that right there you seem to cancel Holmes out – looking at the big picture Holmes’ career resume measures up as one of the all-time greatest.

 

And that’s something that can’t be disputed.

 

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You Earned My Respect – Champ.

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61 Responses to “Larry Holmes – Respect Due”

  1. As a fighter and MAN Larry Holms was a role model to me. He didn’t yake no crap from none of those “Rcihard heads” in the media.

    And to top it off Larry showed many uf those knee-grows how to handle their business outside of the ring.

    Nyff respect to a true warrior and MAN!

  2. damn typing in the dark is not recomended y’all!

  3. Great column, Miz, and I love those old SI covers, simplicity themselves. Holmes was a great champion but I don’t think we’ll ever see the heavyweight division that dominant again with such outstanding fighters stretching from Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston to Tyson, Holyfield, and Lewis. Great times, better fights.

  4. Great column Mizzo; I’m apparently two years younger than you and I didn’t really start watching boxing until Tyson; that electrified me. Those first few years of Tyson’s fights will be seared in my memory as long as I live. I’ve never seen someone as aggressive and efficient in the ring as Mike in those years; but that fight between Cooney and Holmes, it’s all on Youtube…I wanted to get a taste for how the man fought having not seen any of his stuff on ESPN Classic. That wasn’t a fight. Holmes owned him from the first second. Cooney was a statue and was much too slow; and as you said, Holmes’ jab was certainly Ali-esque; I’ve seen most of Muhammad’s fights now and watching him is always rewarding; he was like a cat, deceptively quick. Holmes wasn’t quite that quick but it was somewhat deceptively quick. Those jabs were much too quick for Cooney. And I’ve never seen so many borderline low blows and actual low blows in one fight. I’m glad Lane called a couple of them, but he could have called a couple more. Anyway, having seen that fight, I’ll watch out for more Larry Holmes; and introducing the guy first, when he’s the champ? That is disgraceful. But damn he shut ‘em up.

  5. Yo ya’ll buggin. TBR wrote this piece! What ya’ll reading in the dark ;)

    Good work bruh! I gained respect for Holmes, but couldn’t stand the brotha early on because my house was Ali (my pop). Dude was robbed against Spinks and he was my mans after that.

    Congratulations Mr. Holmes.

  6. GrandNubian Says:

    @sankofa,

    Dang bruh, i was kinda worried there for a minute but i see that you were typing in the dark. :-)

    But on a serious note, i would have to agree with you. I grew up in the 70s watching Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Norton, etc. But Larry Holmes was a true warrior and a true champion. I admired the fact that he didn’t take no crap from the media.

    @TBR,

    I would have to agree with you. I think that Holmes was the closest boxer to Ali that I can remember. He was a master technician with the jab.

    @ Miz

    Yeah, i think Holmes was robbed in that Spinks fight, too but we all know why.

    Congrats to Brother Larry Holmes!!!

  7. TBR this is a compliment but it won’t seem like it when you first read it. I maintain Larry Holmes is in the bottom end of the top-10 of all-time great championship reigns, regardless of weight class.

    and Nubian why do you think he was robbed?

  8. I’ll answer that. Holmes’ jab was the deciding factor with me. He also twice came punches from knocking Spinks out. Listening to the announcers, I couldn’t believe how they were calling the fight.

    It wasn’t even close. Neither was the second fight. You gotta knock the champ out to take his title (in a close fight).

  9. that is why i always watch fights with the sound off. better to see with your own eyes than to have someone tell you what you see.

    and by the way because I know someone’s going to ask here we go with the list of championship reigns above Holmes’s in no particular order: Duran at 135, Hagler at 160, Henry Armstrong at 147, Louis at Heavy, Ali at Heavy, Monzon at 160, Sugar Ray Robinson at 147.

  10. thebrotherreport Says:

    I agree that all of these champions had great title reigns – I’m just impressed with Holmes’ body of work. Even if you remove Ali from those victories, that’s still an impressive list of title defenses, of all those guys Tim Witherspoon gave Holmes the most serious beating. He and Ali fought at the height of the heavyweight division. Not taking anything away from Louis because you can only fight who’s there.

    Duran may have been my dad’s favorite fighter – he talked about how he was going to beat Ray Leonard in the first fight and I didn’t want to hear it, well I listened to the fight on radio and he went to go see it on closed circuit t.v. Once I heard the decision, I was in the bed before he got home – I had cried myself to sleep.

  11. I hated that past-his-prime Larry Holmes had to fight a very-much-in-his prime Mike Tyson. Even the pre-Buster Douglas Mike Tyson would have come up short against Holmes. Holmes had the jab, the height and the defense to nullfy Tyson’s power. Instead, Tyson waxed that ass, and folks tried to use that fight to tarnish his legacy. Its good to see him get his due.

    so is Lennox Lewis the Larry holmes of his generation? Not in terms of skill, but just in terms of benefitting and succeeding in a weak heavyweight division

  12. thebrotherreport Says:

    You had me until the last paragraph. Lewis in that 2nd tier of great heavyweights and I think I’m being kind in saying that. For one Holmes had a chin, the Tyson fight was the only fight that Holmes lost w/o a decision. And Holmes never ducked a fighter. If it wasn’t for that cut eye – Vitali Klitschko would’ve smoked Lewis easily. His jab is just as good as Lewis’.

    Do you think Holmes fought in a weak division? I’m not sure if you’re saying that Lewis should be up there because he fought in a weak division or if Holmes also fought in a weak division.
    If the latter is true – I’ve gotta disagree.

    I look at a fighter’s list of wins and over who. And loses to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman don’t cut it, wins over Shannon Briggs and Michael Grant? And among the fighters he ducked… John Ruiz?

  13. GrandNubian Says:

    @Okori,

    I would have to echo everything that miz said. Holmes pretty much beat the brakes off of Spinks in that first fight. I still can’t believe he lost.

  14. Holmes is the most underated heavyweight of all time. He suffered from having no big names to beat, but he showed classes and skill. I’m glad for him getting honored in this way.

    Lennox Lewis is a great HW, and there are no tiers of greatness. Lennox Lewis is a HoF he dominated the alphabet soup HW mix by being the unified champ, a feat that no one has been able to accomplish since his retirement.

  15. thebrotherreport Says:

    Off the top of my head I can’t name a legit fighter that Lewis beat that was in his prime.

  16. TBR re Duran: and trust me when I tell you this…. Duran was good-to-great at 147. at 135 no fighter alive would have beaten him, and that includes Mayweather. at 135 Duran roughs up Mayweather, mugs him, pounds him on every opening he can get, and stops him.

    But it’s not an insult to be anywhere from 6-10 in the all-time championship reigns. It’s more the difference between being great and transcendent.

  17. My favorite fighter was always Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but Holmes was the dominant heavyweight of my childhood, and I always enjoyed watching him fight.

    I was 14 when Holmes fought that fraud GerryCooney, and since we couldn’t afford to go see it closed circuit, my father took me fishing. I remember sitting on a creek bank at midnight wondering what was happening in Vegas. It was the first over-hyped heavyweight fight that I was actually aware of, and I was totally seduced by the pre-fight drama. I think ABC aired the fight a few weeks later, and it was just as big a thrill to see it then.

    I adored Holmes. He was wrong about Marciano, who was not a fraud. Marciano was every bit the champion his record showed. But I understand why Holmes said what he said about Marciano. The media was just too much, and Holmes was right to get pissed and fire from the lip. And Holmes was robbed against that other fraud, Michael Spinks. Thank the media for that fiasco, as well. Holmes suffers the same lack of historical respect as one of my other childhood sports idols, Moses Malone.

    I mourn the boxing of the ’70s. It seemed more fun to watch back then. Maybe that was because it was free on NBC and ABC and you didn’t have to pay $49.99 to watch a two-round stinkbomb.

    God, I just got sick in my stomach seeing Michael Spinks on that SI cover…. Thanks a lot……

  18. GrandNubian Says:

    TBR,

    As much as i hate to admit it and as much as I like LL, i think you’re right. Holyfield was pretty much washed up when LL beat him; so was Tyson. Those are the two biggest names that i can think of at this time.

  19. Shit…. Duran in the early ’70s might have been the greatest ever, in all his fury and prime. WHo can say for sure, but gee-zus he was scary….

  20. thebrotherreport Says:

    Will B. – I think we have something in common. I LOVE MOSES MALONE. The day that the 76’ers traded him – I got the word at lunch in Jr. High school and I had a lump in my throat until I got home then I let it out. It took me a long time to get over that one.

  21. but you know this Will: any minute now the Mayweather groupies will descend on this and go “Mayweather stops Robinson in 1~!”

    I still maintain Ray Robinson is the best ever but Duran is the most fearsome fighter ever.

  22. thebrotherreport Says:

    Will and O –
    Hagler may be the most unappreciated champion of our time – another man that fought all comers and did it his way. His fight with John Mugabi was a classic.

    I believe every word you said about Duran – my dad told me told me pretty much the same things. He was crazy about the Hands of Stone.

  23. if you can TBR seek out on youtube some of his fights at 135. you’ll see what your dad was trying to tell you.

  24. Dude… as a lifelong Sixers sufferer, Malone’s time in Philly was the highlight of my basketball-loving life. The day of The Trade… what can be said? Howard Katz, I hope, has a spot reserved in Hell. I have to go now. I’m starting to cry….

  25. thebrotherreport Says:

    I will thanks.

  26. Remember that Time magazine cover with Gerry Cooney and Sly Stallone? This country is crazy.

  27. If you are going to say that about Lennox, ie. he beat no one, you have to say the same thing about Larry. Larry lost to Spinx. Give me a break.

    They are greats both greats because they dominated their era.

    I mean if you think about it, wasn’t Lennox the one who ended David Tua’s career. Lennox was a beast. I have nothing but respect for him, even if he was boring.

    As for marciano, he was a bum. he gets no credit in my eyes, beating up a punch of late 30 year old HoFs and undersized men.

  28. Not his fault DavidMac. you can only fight who’s in front of you. and Marciano retired undefeated. When you do that you’re not a bum.

  29. I don’t really care that he retired undefeated, its that he only had 6 title defenses. Fought in the worst heavyweight division in the history of boxing. Ducked people over 200 pounds left and right, and in general was just no impressive. You match him up with any HW champ who dominated an era he would lose to that heavyweight and to the fighters those heavyweights beat.

  30. thebrotherreport Says:

    David Tua WOW! That’s the equivalent of Holmes beating Marvis Frazier. I didn’t say he beat no one, I said he beat no significant fighter that was in the prime of their career. For the most part Holmes ended Ernie Shavers’ and Ken Norton’s careers and telling from those fights, they both had something left in the tank – that’s different than fighting a guy that needs a payday to keep the IRS off his butt.

    Lewis couldn’t beat half the dudes Holmes defended his title against. As a matter of fact Lewis wasn’t even great. Like someone said earlier Lewis benefited from fighting in a weak heavyweight division, that does not constitute greatness.

  31. Larry Holmes beat no one in the prime of their career, if you are going to say Lennox is second tier Larry is too, it really is as simple as that. Ken Norton and Ernie Shaver were past their prime, they were nowhere near their peaks.

    David Tua, who fought future champs Chris Byrd, Maskeav,Rahman, and John Ruiz and beat all of them, except Byrd, and you try to call him a bum? Hell no, you are not walking with that one. Tua was a force in the HW division on his way up, and Lennox took him to the clinc and broke him down for 12 rounds, he hasn’t been the same since.

    Lennox also took out Vitali Klitchko, at the time the better brother, Rahman, Holyfield, and Gollatta.

    He faced more younger and physically imposing talent than Holmes, and you are trying to write him off.

    No dice.

  32. thebrotherreport Says:

    Did you see either one of those fights? No one laid down in those fights. Bottom line is Holmes beat everyone they threw at him and he didn’t dodge anyone. Unlike Lewis. Holmes beat Renaldo Snipes early in his career and beat Witherspoon who would’ve beat Tua. Tua was good but if that’s the guy to make your argument with, that won’t work

    He didn’t take out Klitshko his eye was cut and he couldn’t continue – other than that he was gettin his ass kicked and you know it.

    And the first go round Lewis was declared champion because Bowe refused to fight him, the second time McCall broke down in the middle of the fight

  33. Oscar didn’t lay down against Floyd, that doesn’t change the fact he was past his prime. Joe Louis didn’t lay down against Marciano when he was 38 years old that doesn’t mean he wasn’t washed up.

    I know Larry didn’t duck anyone, like I said he is a great fighter, he just had no one really capable of opposing his dominance of the era. I am in no way slighting Holmes.

    My point is this, you can’t not praise Holmes and then put Lennox down. Lennox beat all challengers and avenged all his losses, something no other heavyweight champ can claim they did. He destroyed Gollata after Gollata had dominated Bowe, Bowe was so afraid of lennox he dropped one of his belts just so he didn’t have to face him. he beat a peak shape Holyfield, even George Foreman said he is one of the best HWs ever, and you try to deny his greatness?

    I can’t follow you on your assertion TBR. As for Klitchsko, how do you think his eye got like that. It didn’t just come undone, Lennox did what Champs do, they find a way to win.

  34. thebrotherreport Says:

    I don’t think Lewis is as good as some people make him out to be. Did Golata really have any boxing skills? He didn’t beat a peak shape Holyfield – who was 37 at the time of their first fight. George Foreman’s opinion doesn’t mean alot to me – he’s the same guy that called Bernard Hopkins a “dirty fighter”. I’m not denying him anything – I just don’t think he was that good and he struggled against the competition he had.

  35. Evander was at his peak as a heavyweight, he just came off beating a one loss Tyson twice, a one loss Micheal Moorer, a one loss Bean, and a first fight draw to Lennox. He was the Linear champ. Lennox beat him at his peak. Gollata definantly at the time had boxing skills, plus he has tremendous power and is physically a beast.

    As for Hopkins, he is a dirty fighter. How in the hell can deny that he isn’t. I love B-Hop as a fighter, but he is as dirty as Casamayor.

  36. thebrotherreport Says:

    I guess we’ll agree to disagree.

  37. TBR Hopkins is a dirty fighter. But D-Mac he isn’t near as dirty as Casamayor. Casamayor is Eusebio Pedroza-level dirty. He’s dirty in a way where you have to respect the art of his cheating.

  38. One of my favorite Larry Holmes moments is he and Trevor Berbick fighting in the streets. Holmes jumping off the roof of the car was HILARIOUS….

    As for Lennox, while he may not be listed amongst the elite of all-time heavyweights, in a mythical matchup, how many fighters would you favor over Lennox. Keep in mind Lennox was a 6’5″ 240+ lbs fighter with a stinging jab, and legitimate 1 punch power from a right cross or right uppercut? Some will say he was a chinny fighter, but both Rahman and, to a greater extent, McCall were serious punchers.

  39. I would take, Joe Louis, Max Schemelling, Jack Dempsey, Joe Fraizer, Young George Foreman, Ali, Holmes, and maybe Norton over Lewis. All being close fights but them getting to his suspect chin. That is good company if you ask me though.

  40. TBR do you have the list of who else was inducted?

  41. The greats being inducted are

    Eddie Perkins (Jr. WW)
    Homan Williams (Middleweight)
    Larry Holmes (HW)

    They are going into the Modern-Era category

  42. northphiladelphia Says:

    Larry Holmes is a true champion. The work he has done in the ring and out of the ring, i.e. the businesses in Easton, PA, qualifies him as one of the greatest in his profession. I just don’t know what took the H.O.F. board so long to get Larry in.

  43. North Philly you have to wait 5 years from your last fight. that’s why it took so long cuz Larry wouldn’t stop fighting. :)

    and hooray for Perkins, and Williams.

  44. north philadelphia Says:

    That makes perfect sense. Thank you Okori for clearing that up, I was feeling some type of way about that.

  45. yeah the IBHOF has it right. they’re not in the mood to induct a guy, and then have him keep fighting.

  46. TBR,

    Nice article. Sorry, I’M not a boxing fan but good work just the same!

  47. thebrotherreport Says:

    No problem and thank you. Is it you or Miranda who is the hockey fan?

  48. TBR,

    It’s me. I’m pulling for San Jose this year to win the cup.

  49. thebrotherreport Says:

    I’m a big Red Wings fan.

  50. TBR,
    Detroit is a good team. I would say they or San Jose will represent the west in the Stanley Cup finals. I have been following Mike Grier’s career and ironically he’s from Detroit. I gotta support the brothers. Jerome Iginla is another one of my favorite players. He’s in the top ten in scoring this year, unfortunately the Flames aren’t that good because they don’t have enough scoring. I also like Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis.

  51. thebrotherreport Says:

    Flyers shoulda pulled the trigger on that Iginla deal three years ago.

  52. TBR,

    You know Philly management they get close but always fall short. Danny B. is awesome on offense but his defense is poor. Jerome would have been a great fit for the flyers. Jerome is pretty good on O and D.

  53. first off, great post TBR paying homage to a great fighter with the perfect jab.

    Oddly enough, aside from Lenox lewis. I find myself agreeing with David Mac here. Marciano COULDN’T hold Holmes’ jock strap. Keep in mind that Marciano fought in something like the 180’s. Think about that for a second. Holyfied was 210 and was considered a small heavyweight. If a 38 year old Jersey Joe Walcott can be up on points until that famous knockout, the I see Holmes putting on a jabbing clinic.

    I can’t stand Lennox Lewis. the man was 6’6′ and 250 and was measured with the jab. He lost my respect in the first Holyfield fight when he had Evander in a world of trouble and instead of finishing him off, he played it super safe and kept pawing with the jab instead of acting like a real champion. he had a weak chin, he KNEW he had a weak chin, and it influenced gis weakass fighting style. 6’6′ guys should do more than jab. Now Klitctcko is basically a clone of Lewis except that he stands a little more upright and is a little stiffer. I blame Emmanuel Steward fro ruining the Heavyweight division even as he wins fights!

  54. I remember when Renaldo Snipes knocked Holmes down in the seventh round of their fight. I thought “There goes the upcoming Holmes-Cooney fight” because Holmes absolutely looked like he was done. About four rounds later the fight was stopped with Holmes winning a TKO.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a badly hurt fighter not only survive the round as Holmes did, but come back to win the fight. Pure guts and courage.

  55. larry holmes was one of the best he had class could have beat any of top heavey weights since his time.

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