Larry Holmes and boxing glory
SPORTS FOR ALL - Philip Ella Juico (The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2013 - 12:00am

An Associated Press (AP) report over the weekend stated that former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes recently checked out of the St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem Township in Easton, Pennsylvania after being hospitalized because of high blood sugar count.

The same report stated that the 63-year old Holmes felt “lightheaded and drowsy and his doctor sent him to the hospital.” Upon his return to his home, Holmes said he’s taking medication and following his doctor’s instructions to lose weight and eat right. He says blood sugar problems run in his family.  Fairly recent interviews and photos of Holmes show that the 6’3” “Easton Assassin” shows that he seems to be much heavier than his fighting weight of around 220 pounds during his heyday.

The news report on Holmes’s diabetic condition brought back memories of his colorful past and his role in popularizing boxing and making  his era one of the most exciting in boxing history. Born on November 3, 1949 in Cuthbert, Georgia, Holmes had an amateur record of 19-3 and took part in the 1972 Olympic Trials but failed to make it to the US team to the Munich Olympics after losing to Duane Bobick in his 22nd fight.  Holmes was eventually disqualified in the third round for excessive holding after receiving a warning for the same offense in the second canto.

Filipino boxing aficionados will certainly remember Holmes as one of Muhammad Ali’s sparring partners who joined Ali in Manila for the “Thrilla in Manila”. Holmes was in the undercard of the Ali-Joe Frazier fight at the Araneta Coliseum (which was unilaterally renamed Philippine Coliseum by Ferdinand Marcos who was three years into his martial law administration) on October 1, 1975. Holmes won by TKO over Rodney Bobick in the sixth round. It was Holmes 17th straight victory and this winning streak would go all the way up to his 48th fight against Carl Williams whom he beat by unanimous decision.

Holmes lost his chance to equal Rocky Marciano’s 49-fight winning streak when he lost by split decision to the souped-up light heavyweight, Michael Spinks in a contest for The Ring and International Boxing Federation heavyweight crowns. It was reported that after the fight, Holmes bitterly said that “Rocky Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap.” Holmes would later apologized for the uncalled for remark.

It was not going to be the first time that Holmes would utter remarks that would reveal that he didn’t get the credit he deserved. Writer James Slater states that “strangely enough, back when all-time great Larry Holmes was plying his trade in the late ‘70s and early-to-mid 1980’s, fans and experts were complaining how the heavyweight division was on its downside: that the great fighters had pretty much all gone. Holmes himself is still angry today over the way he failed, as he puts it, “to get his just due.”

As if to belie Holmes’s remarks, Slater continues that “today however, fans would give anything to see a fighter like Holmes – and the guys he fought such as Tim Witherspoon (a great battle), Earnie Shavers (probably the heaviest hitter in boxing history), Mike Weaver, etc – in action. In fact today, fans look back at Holmes’s era as a great era indeed. Larry himself sure does, and, in a recent interview with Leighton Ginn of The Desert Sun, “The Easton Assassin” spoke of how bad the heavyweight division is today – to the extent that the man on the street no longer knows who the world heavyweight champion actually is!” Holmes states that the Klitschko brothers aren’t carrying the sport.

Slater however adds that “Larry may be guilty of over exaggerating as he claims the currently bad condition of boxing (as fans know the Klitschko brothers are huge stars all over Europe), where not only the heavyweight division but all of boxing currently thrives.” Holmes rues the fact that, as pointed out by Slater, America no longer plays a massive role in the heavyweight division.

Holmes, whose left jab is considered one of the best in boxing, was World Boxing Council heavyweight champion from 1978 to 1983, The Ring heavyweight titleholder from 1980 to 1985 and the International Boxing Federation champion from 1983 to 1985. He was a busy champion, having defended his titles successfully 20 times. Joe Louis won 25 of his title defenses.

Some pundits state that Ali’s ill-fated fight against Holmes on October 2, 1980 to regain the heavyweight crown for a record fourth time may have contributed to Ali’s eventual development of Parkinson’s Syndrome who was then 38 years old. Holmes who won all 10 rounds felt bad about battering his former boss.

A left Everlast 16-ounce boxing glove autographed by Holmes encased in glass sits in our family living room and serves as a personal reminder of one of the world’s best heavyweight fighters.


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