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Larry Holmes (born November 3, 1949, in Cuthbert, Georgiamarker) is a former world WBC and IBF heavyweight boxing champion. Holmes has spent the majority of his adult life in Easton, Pennsylvaniamarker, 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, Tim Witherspoon, Gerry Cooney, James "Bonecrusher" Smith and Trevor Berbick. 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 from retirement. 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 Eric "Butterbean" Esch 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 Famemarker in June 2008.

Boxing career

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, Pennsylvaniamarker. 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's 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 by beating in Norton on a closely-contested split decision. After fourteen rounds, the fight was dead even on all three of the judges' scorecards. At the end of the fifteenth and final round, which is cited by boxing experts and historians as one of the greatest rounds in the history of the sport, two judges awarded the round, and the fight, to Holmes, the third gave it to Norton.

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 weighed 217 1/2 pounds, his lowest weight since his title-winning fight against George Foreman, when he weighed 216 1/2 pounds), Ali was on medication for a wrongly diagnosed thyroid condition and was unable to recover his former skills or stamina. Holmes dominated the fight (arguably without looking to land a killer blow) 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).

Dominant champion

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. During the prefight introductions, Holmes was announced first and Cooney second. Although champions are traditionally announced second Holmes himself had been introduced second when he won the title from Ken Norton. 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.

Losses to Michael Spinks

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, having dropped him three times inside the round with a series of pulverizing combinations. This was the only time Holmes would be knocked out in his lengthy career, he 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's 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 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.

Holmes's final fight, at age 52, was a 10-round unanimous decision victory against Eric Esch (a.k.a. "Butterbean" and "king of the four-round fighters"), in 2002 at the Norfolk Scopemarker in Virginiamarker.

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.

Place in History

Larry Holmes's portrait by Barnaby Ruhe, 1985
Holmes's string of 20 successful heavyweight title defenses is surpassed only by Joe Louis with 25. The next highest on the list, Muhammad Ali had 19. 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 Joe Louis, with 25.

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 holds the record for most consecutive knockouts in heavyweight title fights.

ESPN's Who's Number 1? ranked Holmes as the 9th most underrated athlete in history.

In a Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years, released in 2002, Holmes ranked #27.

Hall of Fame

In December 2007, Larry Holmes was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Famemarker. The induction took place in June 2008.

See also


  • ISBN 1-59228-632-1

External links

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