Larry Holmes was one of the greatest champions to ever grace the boxing ring. Holmes achieved so much in his career and his legacy is cemented among the elite heavyweights in the history of the sport.
The “Easton Assassin” posted a professional record of 69 wins against just six losses. He recorded 44 of his 69 victories by knockout. Some of his notable wins as a champion came against Ken Norton to claim the championship, Mike Weaver, Earnie Shavers, Trevor Berbick, and of course, Muhammed Ali.
Holmes also gave Evander Holyfield, Ray Mercer, Carl Williams, Renaldo Snipes, Gerry Cooney, Tim Witherspoon, and David Bey, their first losses as professionals.
Holmes, always quick with a quote, talked with me about the current state of the heavyweight division, his relationship with Don King, and about how he is enjoying retirement.
Paneech: Give me your opinion of the heavyweight division that we see today.
Holmes: It sucks. I don’t see anything happening when I watch these fights, they are very boring. Not only that, but you never heard of any of the fighters. It is very hard to watch. It upsets me to turn on my television set and never be able to look forward to a good fight in that weight class.
Paneech: How does that differ from the seventies and eighties when that was probably the most enjoyable weight class in boxing?
Holmes: Well, the seventies and eighties are when the division was really good. The fights were very enjoyable and everyone knew when the next fight was. Nowadays, you don’t even know who won a fight three days after it happens. We need heavyweights, the people want heavyweights.
Paneech: So we are relegated to watching fighters who weigh less. What fight do you want to see happen the most?
Holmes: Everyone still wants to see Mayweather and Pacquaio fight. When the talks start though, it always seem like it is all about Mayweather, and I think the people hate that. That guy [Mayweather] is throwing his money around like there is no tomorrow.
Paneech: Who was weirder? Tex Cobb, Mike Tyson, or Oliver McCall?
Holmes: (laughs) Tex Cobb would call me every day after we fought, I got sick of talking to him. I liked him a lot as a fighter, and as a person, and feel that sometimes he was misunderstood. Oliver McCall was someone who I never really got to know too well, and he had some well-publicized problems. Tyson was not a bad guy, he just kicked my butt when I wasn’t ready for it.
Paneech: In many of your pre-fight and post-fight interviews, the word money came out of your mouth. What kind of things are you into to generate the money today?
Holmes: I’m tired. I am 63 years old and I have never quit pursuing my goals. I am heavily involved in real estate right now, but I am trying to get out of it altogether, I am just tired. I make appearances, but I really want to spend more time fishing. That is what I really enjoy doing with my spare time.
Paneech: In your book, you really take some shots at Don King, but you also claim that he made you a lot of money. On the record, in this interview, I want your feelings on Don King.
Holmes: Don King ain’t a bad guy. He cut my earnings, but I don’t hold any hard feelings toward him. It’s like this… I did a job, he took money, probably more than he should have. If I was supposed to get $10 million, I was lucky to get $6.5 million. It happens and you can’t do much, you decide whether to take it or leave it. King was a promoter, and he was good at it.
Paneech: There was an incident (see video below) leading up to your fight with Trevor Berbick where you came out of a limousine through the sunroof, ran down the hood of the vehicle, and jumped off, kicking Berbick in the face. What caused that?
Holmes: He was talking a lot of shit. He accused me of being with his wife. His wife was merely the friend of a friend and nothing ever happened between us. He wanted a fight, so I gave him one. Leading up to the fight he took every opportunity he could to badmouth Larry Holmes and I just blew up. After I beat him in the ring, he tried to get me going again, saying he deserved another fight, wasn’t happening.
Paneech: One of your most admirable qualities is that you tell it like it is. What is your biggest regret in life?
Holmes: I don’t know if I have any regrets, I have had a pretty successful life. I have learned good, bad, and ugly. I have learned that promoters can love you, hate you, then love you again.
Paneech: Who hit you harder? Ali or Tyson?
Holmes: Neither. Kenny Norton hit me so hard that it still hurts. Now there was a case of two fighters who did not like each other.
Paneech: You were once quoted as saying that Rocky Marciano couldn’t hold your jockstrap.
Holmes: The media loves to take things like that out of context. There was no harm meant when I said that, but plenty of harm came from it.
Paneech: With that being said, who was more annoying to you, Howard Cosell or Larry Merchant?
Holmes: I liked Cosell. I don’t like Larry Merchant. He thinks he knows everything about a sport that he was never in. He walks around with papers and studies what he writes, he just pisses you off. I cursed him out once, and I told him that he was a phony.
One Word Answers With Larry Holmes
Favorite Meal of The Day: Spaghetti, everyday — with sausage.
Favorite Sports Team: Boston Celtics, and least favorite, the Miami Heat. They think that their shit don’t stink.
Favorite Junk Food: Watermelon.
Favorite Musician: I sing in a band – so me.
Shows You Watch On TV: NBA and The Price Is Right.
Biggest Phobia: I’m afraid of my own shadow.
Typical Fast Food Order: Chicken McNuggets with BBQ and Sweet and Sour sauces.
Worst Habit: Drinking too much Budweiser when I get angry.