Holmes Story Headed for Happy Ending!

By George Willis


Holmes Story Headed for Happy Ending!

There is a line near the end of Evan Grant’s documentary, “Out From Ali’s Shadow: The Larry Holmes Story,” where the late-Ralph Wiley sums up the way we all should view Larry Holmes. “Sometimes it takes distance to judge the true measure of greatness,” he says. Holmes is 57 now, and on this night he is around people who appreciate his greatness.  He is the center of attention at a small reception in Manhattan to celebrate the upcoming distribution of the 55-minute documentary on his life. The title is bit of wishful thinking because Holmes will never escape the enormity of Muhammad Ali. Not when you’re his successor and ultimately his conqueror.

The documentary tells us, Holmes only wanted a “good fight” from Gerry Cooney and took no joy in beating up Ali.  “I love the guy,” he told me at the screening. “Ain’t nothing I wouldn’t do for Ali.”

The documentary was actually completed several years ago but sat on Grant’s desk unappreciated much like Holmes’ career.  But distance has helped this project, too.  Wiley, who died in 2004, offers a classic narration and the documentary also contains interviews by Larry Merchant, a much-younger Lou DiBella, and the late Jack Newfield. What carries the documentary is Holmes’ private footage of numerous sparring sessions with Ali. That alone is worth whatever it is priced.

After the screening, I sat down with the Easton Assassin, who successfully defended his title 20 times from 1978-85.

On enjoying life.

Holmes:  "I don't look down on nobody because I've been down there before.  I know what it is to get hit in the mouth, to get knocked down, to get stopped. So why should I look down on somebody else when I didn't like the way it felt when I was down. You would never know (how it feels) unless you've been through the welfare system, the Salvation Army, going to rummage sales to put clothes on your back. You'll never understand it unless you've done it.”

On his love, hate relationship with the media.

Holmes:  “I tried to kiss ass with all the writers while I was boxing. I used to have parties in my room, but they didn't care. They still wrote bad (things) about me. In the sports business you’ve got writers that get mad at you for something or something that happened to one of their friends that they don't like and it all turns on you.”

On his dealings with Don King.

Holmes: “I had to take the short end of the stick. But I did that and I saved it.  I didn't throw it away. If I didn't do it, where was I going to be? They' weren’t going to give me nothing.  But if I got (paid) a million dollars, I’ve still got $800,000 of it now.  I ain't broke. If I need a million I can go get it.”

On WBO champion Shannon Briggs.

LH: “He could clean up that division if he gets his shit together.  Shannon calls me before every fight and asks me to be his trainer. I tell him I don't want to do that.  He's got a couple of big guys that punch real good out there, and after four or five rounds, (Shannon) hands drop down. He can't do that. I've told him that.”

On Muhammad Ali.

Holmes: “Muhammad Ali, they can say he was the Greatest, but I say he was one of the greatest because I'm not going to take anything away from the Marcianos, the Joe Louises, the Dempseys, the Sonny Listons.  Ask me who’s the greatest and I’ll tell you I am.  But that’s just my opinion.  I just wish Ali hadn’t taken all those punches. You can't take punches upside your head. Ali was showing how strong he was all the time, taking those damn shots upside the head. You can't take shots upside your head and on your body like that. I was with him four years as a sparring partner. I know what he was going through.  You can't do it.  But I love the guy. There ain't nothing I wouldn't do for Ali. There ain't nothing I wouldn't do for Joe Frazier.”

On a recent report that suggested he paid Frazier’s recent hospital bills.

Holmes: "I didn't do that. But if I did pay for it, that's my business. If I give Joe a million dollars, that's my business. If he needs something and asks me to do it, I'm going to do it because he always does (things) for me.   I'll say, ‘Joe I want you to make an appearance with me.’ He'll come up and do it.”

On holding grudges.

Holmes:  “Heck, I got into boxing to make money. I didn't get into boxing to hurt nobody or make anybody mad at me or be mad at anybody else. I got in it to make some money.  That rest of that shit can go down the river.”

On his favorite part of the documentary.

Holmes:  “When I see my wife and my son.  I got a for real wife. She’s down to earth and the real deal. That's why we've been together 31 years. And also to see my son walking out to the ring with me. He was nine years old then. Now he's 24 years old.”

On today’s heavyweight division.

Holmes: “It’s sucks. They don't realize that if they would work harder they could become something and make money.. Because this ain't forever. Get it while you can."


Sponsored by:



Send questions and comments to: gwillis@boxingtalk.com