International Boxing Hall of Fame
"The Easton Assassin"
|Real name||Larry Holmes|
|Birth date||November 3, 1949 (1949-11-03)|
|Birth place||Cuthbert, Georgia, U.S.|
|Wins by KO||44|
Larry Holmes (born November 3, 1949, in Cuthbert, Georgia) is a former world heavyweight boxing champion. Although a native of Georgia, Holmes has spent the majority of his life in Easton, Pennsylvania, in the state's Lehigh Valley region, giving rise to his boxing nickname, "The Easton Assassin."
As a professional heavyweight, Holmes won his first 48 bouts, beating, among others, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Tim Witherspoon, Gerry Cooney, James "Bonecrusher" Smith and Muhammad Ali. As champion, Holmes successfully defended his title (organizational or lineal) 20 times, second only to Joe Louis who had 25 defenses. He fell just one short of matching the record of Rocky Marciano, who retired undefeated after 49 wins in 49 bouts, when he lost to light-heavyweight champion Michael Spinks by a unanimous and controversial decision in 1985. After losing the rematch with Spinks on a disputed split decision, Holmes promptly retired from the sport at age 36.
Subsequently, Holmes made a series of comebacks. He unsuccessfully fought for the title three more times, losing to Mike Tyson in 1988, by TKO in 4; Evander Holyfield in 1992, by UD after 12 rounds; and Oliver McCall in 1995, by UD in 12 rounds. He finally retired at the age of 52 after defeating Butterbean by UD after 10 rounds, 29 years after his first bout (against Rodell Dupree, by UD after 4 rounds), with a record of 69-6. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2008.
At the beginning of his career, in the early to mid 1970s, Holmes was a sparring partner to then heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, whose training camp was in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. However, Holmes trained predominantly in the Lehigh Valley.
Holmes first gained credibility as a contender when, in 1978, he upset hard-punching Earnie Shavers, winning almost all 12 rounds. Holmes' victory over Shavers set up a title shot between Holmes and WBC heavyweight champion Ken Norton in Las Vegas on June 9, 1978.
Holmes won the title, defeating Norton on a split decision. The 15-round slugfest, featuring virtually nonstop action, was the culmination bout of an elimination series for the lineal championship vacated via Muhammad Ali's retirement. Holmes won a closely-contested fight that was decided in the final round, which is cited by boxing experts and historians as one of the greatest rounds in the history of the sport.
Holmes defended his title against contenders of varying quality, many quite good--Tim Witherspoon, Earnie Shavers, Bonecrusher Smith, Leon Spinks, Gerry Cooney and Mike Weaver--but the most emotional night of his reign came when he faced his friend, the legendary Muhammad Ali (October 1980), who was returning to the ring in an attempt to win the heavyweight title for an unprecedented fourth time. Although looking fit and trim, Ali was already on medication for what developed into Parkinson's disease (or syndrome) and was unable to recover his former skills or stamina. Holmes dominated the fight until Ali's trainer, Angelo Dundee, finally retired his fighter after the 10th round, giving Holmes a win by TKO (the only nondecision loss of Ali's career).
Holmes successfully defended the WBC belt 17 times until December 11, 1983, when he voluntarily relinquished that title for the championship of the new International Boxing Federation. In 1982, Holmes gained some measure of notoriety when he fought Gerry Cooney, a white boxer who many thought had a chance to unseat Holmes. A lot of racial tension was involved with this fight, with Cooney considered "the great white hope" and the best white heavyweight since Rocky Marciano. Strangely, during the prefight introductions, Holmes was announced first and Cooney second, although champions are traditionally announced second. Despite bitterness and racial tension among fans of both fighters, the two became friends. In the 1990s, a movie called The Great White Hype starring Damon Wayans and Peter Berg was loosely based on the Holmes-Cooney fight. Holmes defeated Cooney by TKO in the 13th round.
As IBF heavyweight champion, Holmes successfully defended the title three times, bringing his string of successful defenses to 20. In September 1985, he lost the IBF crown to undisputed world light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks by a close decision. This loss was particularly galling for Holmes because had he been victorious against Spinks, he would have tied Rocky Marciano in winning 49 professional heavyweight fights with no defeats. Holmes was criticized by many for comments he made after the fight, saying: "If you want to get technical about it, Rocky Marciano couldn't carry my jockstrap." As he later put it, "I was 35 and beating younger guys, Rocky was 25 and beating older guys".
On April 19, 1986, Holmes lost a rematch with Spinks by a disputed split decision. A bitter Holmes told the judges who had voted in favor of Spinks to kiss his "big black behind" and retired from the sport.
In January 1988, Holmes was lured out of retirement by a $3 million purse to challenge reigning undisputed world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Tyson knocked out Holmes in the fourth round, the first and only time Holmes would be knocked out in his lengthy career. Holmes again retired from the sport.
In 1990, Holmes again ended his retirement, but not to challenge immediately for a title. In 1992, entering the ring as a 6-1 outsider, he upset the undefeated 1988 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Ray Mercer, and later that year got another shot at the undisputed title, losing a 12-round decision to Evander Holyfield. Subsequently, he put together another string of wins, most notably over Garing Lane and Jesse Ferguson, which kept the aging fighter lingering around the top 10.
Holmes' last title shot was in April 1995. At the age of 45, Holmes came within one point on two cards of winning the WBC title from Oliver McCall. He performed admirably, confusing McCall with his jab; however, after 12 rounds, Holmes was battered, bruised and severely cut, losing a close but unanimous decision. This was the same year in which 45-year-old George Foreman successfully recovered the lineal championship belt from Michael Moorer by knockout. Although a bout was proposed on more than one occasion, Larry Holmes and George Foreman never met in the ring.
His final professional record was 69 wins and 6 losses (no draws), with 44 of his 69 wins by knockout. He lost twice to Michael Spinks, once to Mike Tyson (his only knockout loss), once to Evander Holyfield, once to Oliver McCall and once to Brian Nielsen.
Holmes' string of 20 successful heavyweight title defenses is surpassed only by Joe Louis with 25. The next highest on the list, Lennox Lewis, had 15. Other boxers in other weight classes also have met or surpassed 20 title defenses. Joe Calzaghe has 21 successful super middleweight defenses. Bernard Hopkins had 20 successful defenses at middleweight. Sven Ottke (super-middleweight) and Ricardo Lopez (flyweight) had 21 defenses each. The only boxers (at any weight) with more defenses than Holmes, Hopkins and Calzaghe, are Dariusz Michalczewski (light heavyweight) with 23, and Louis.
Some of these boxers have had championship reigns of similar length, but none has been as "busy" in consistent title defenses. Even Joe Louis slowed to a pace of one title defense per year, while Holmes had at least three per year with the exceptions of 1982 and 1984 (2 and 1 per year, respectively). With a total of eight, Holmes shares (with Tommy Burns) the record for most consecutive knockouts in title fights.
In a Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years, released in 2002, Holmes ranked #27.
In December 2007, Larry Holmes was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The induction took place in June 2008.
1983– September 21, 1985