By Ken Hissner: When heavyweight champion Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes then 48-0 lost to light heavyweight champion Michael “Jinx” Spinks, he took a cheap shot at the former legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, ending his career at 49-0.
“If you want to get technical about it, Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap!” You wonder why Muhammad Ali called Holmes “peanut head?” Having known Holmes and felt the bitterness he had toward me from an incident that he misunderstood when I was putting on a boxing show in Easton, PA, it didn’t surprise me.
“All these years later, people just can’t forget that,” Holmes told Reuters in a telephone interview. “It still haunts you. After all these years, people won’t let it go.”
“I didn’t mean for it to be derogatory. What I meant was that he couldn’t walk on the same sidewalk that I was on. And that’s probably the way I should have said it.”
Having served in the Army in 1965 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I could see that remark being Holmes would be walking in the gutter growing up in Augusta, Georgia.
“People always bring it up,” he said. “It cost me.” Doesn’t sound like an apology, but more of a financial regret. His restaurant was not a success, and he had to put up his own money for his statue, I’m told,” said Holmes.
The loss to Spinks was in September of 1985, with the rematch in April of 1986 both in Las Vegas. This writer agreed with the judges Harold Lederman and Dave Moretti in the first one 143-142, not with Lawrence Wallace for Holmes 145-142 with Spinks taking the final round. Little was ever said that Holmes had previously stopped Spinks brother Leon in three rounds in June 1981.
Holmes would go on to give a beating to a pair of white opponents in “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney in June of 1982 stopping him in the thirteenth round. Next, he gave a worse beating to tough Randall “Tex” Cobb over fifteen rounds, only losing one round on one judge’s scorecard. The best part of that was commentator Howard Cosell retiring from the ill effects of that fight.
In May 1983, Holmes won a split decision over “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon. Why was there never had a rematch? It’s obvious. Holmes got a gift decision.
Two fights later Holmes in November of 1983, Holmes broke the rules that a heavyweight wasn’t to have a non-title fight giving a beating to Marvis Frazier, 10-0, while Holmes was 44-0. The young Frazier was thrown to the wolves by his father, former champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier. After the fight, Holmes showed his bitterness, saying, “that’s for the whippings you’re daddy gave me in the gym.”
Holmes in the defense before the first Spinks fight defeated Carl “The Truth” Williams, a fight I thought he was fortunate to win though the scores favored him by a large margin.
Getting back to the Spinks rematch, Holmes lost a split decision. I had it the same as one judge Joe Cortez 144-141, for Holmes, while judges Frank Brunette and Jerry Roth favored Spinks. There was no anger remark that I recall.
Up next for Holmes was his destruction by “Iron” Mike Tyson in January of 1988 in four rounds. One thing I remember before the introductions of the fighters was the one for former champion Muhammad Ali. He had been sitting next to the future President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Upon entering the ring, Ali touched gloves with Holmes then went to Tyson, who admired Ali and whispered something in his ear. “Kick his ass?” Who knows?
Ali, back in October of 1980, was stopped for the only time in his career by Holmes after the tenth round, never winning a round. It was an ill-advised bout for Ali whose cut-man Ferdie Pacheco said he wouldn’t work the corner and that Ali should be retired.
I was in Deer Lake, PA, training camp, and asked Ali, “why are you taking this fight? Look at the shape you are in”. He patted his fat stomach and replied, “I love my ice cream!” Holmes motioned to referee Richard Steele to stop the fight as he went to the body, not the head in the final round.
Holmes traveled to Denmark and was defeated by a split decision to Denmark’s Brian “Super” Brian Nielsen, 31-0, who later in his career at 49-0 lost to Dickie Ryan.
In the final fight of his career, Holmes took on “the 4 round” fighter white Eric “Butterbean” Esch, insisting on a ten round fight. He had to be figuring he could give him a beating and stop him. Not only did he not stop him, but he was given a dubious knockdown from Esch in the tenth and final round. Holmes won by scores of 98-91, 97-92, and 96-93.
Now let’s look at two-division world champion Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins, known in his home city as “Be Hop.” His remark before his fight with Joe “Pride of Wales” Calzaghe, 44-0, was never given an apology that “no white boy is going to beat me or I won’t be able to return to the hood.”
Hopkins dropped Calzaghe in the first round to go on to lose a
split decision by scores of 114-113, 111-116, and 112-115 in April of 2008 in Las Vegas. It was the USA debut by Calzaghe. Hopkins would go on to win the WBC light heavyweight title from Jean Pascal after a draw in their previous fight.
So, one cannot say that Hopkins was a shell of himself when losing to Calzaghe fighting another ten years. In his next to last fight, he lost his WBA, IBF, and WBO titles to Russia’s Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, taking a beating by scores of 106-120 and 107-120 twice. It was in November of 2014.
In Hopkins’s next and final fight in December 2016, he was knocked out of the ring by white Joe Smith, Jr., 22-1, in eight rounds. Though his feet never left the ring hanging on the ring apron, he claimed he hurt his ankle and couldn’t continue. Continue? He was counted out!
These two remarks by both caught up to both Holmes and Hopkins.