Larry Holmes: One of the Greats
Muhammad Ali is widely considered the greatest heavyweight boxing has ever seen, and with good reason. The fighter that followed him, is in my opinion the one that would have pushed him the closest, if you judge their prime years side by side.
Like Ali, Larry Holmes had his own era of dominance, but sadly for Holmes, he had to follow Ali. Holmes also had to beat an ageing Ali, many never forgave him for having to humble the shell of the great man. Ali took a fearful beating as we had to endure one of the the saddest sights in boxing history.
Holmes was perhaps the most unfortunate heavyweight champion of the world, not only did have to follow the greatest ever, unlike Ali he didn’t really have a true rival of equal ability to define his legacy.
Ali had Frazier, he had Foreman, Holmes had precious little. Gerry Cooney briefly flattered to deceive, but that rivalry was largely built shamefully on race.
Holmes came along at the wrong time, either too early or too late, he deserved better.
Even his title winning effort against Ken Norton in 1978 in one of the greatest ever fights at any weight couldn’t convince the masses. The sight of Holmes and Norton giving everything in that sensational 15th round should never be forgotten, a round which has few equals.
Holmes reigned as the widely recognised champion until 1985, when the years finally told. A faster and fresher Michael Spinks took it away from him, when Holmes was trying to equal the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano.
Holmes tried again the following year, but the former world light heavyweight champion prevailed again, despite many saying Holmes had beaten him. The ex-champion then left the sport a bitter man
But as most do he returned in 1988, but Holmes suffered a similar fate to Ali, Mike Tyson knocked him out in 4 rounds and Holmes left the sport again.
But yet another return saw Holmes finally gain some respect, an upset win over the previously unbeaten Ray Mercer in 1992 earned him a shot at Evander Holyfield.
Despite losing on points, Holmes performed admirably, and we all knew who would have won if Holmes was in his prime.
Even then he wasn’t finished, at the ripe old age of 46, Holmes gave Oliver McCall all the trouble he could handle, before losing a close decision in his final attempt to reclaim a major version of the world heavyweight title in 1995.
Holmes had his last fight in 2002, winning a decision over Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch, and he retired with only 6 defeats, all at the end of his career, in 75 pro fights.
In retirement Holmes has finally got the respect he craved, for me only Ali would have beaten him at his best.