Larry Holmes delivers a knockout induction speech

By Kirk Lang


Larry Holmes delivers a knockout induction speech

Larry Holmes, one of the top ten heavyweights of all time, delivered one of the all-time best induction speeches at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, this past weekend.  He was part preacher and part comedian during his 20-plus minutes up at the microphone. He was a loving husband honoring his wife Diane. He was also gracious, a trait not usually associated with Holmes, as he paid tribute to everyone that helped him achieve greatness, including his sparring partners and promoter Don King. He was a success story who told people in the crowd to go home and tell their kids that if Larry Holmes - a seventh grade dropout - can do it, they can too. "Go to school and get some education. Stay off the damn streets," said Holmes, "Because the world don’t owe you nothing, you owe the world everything."

Even though Holmes accused King of embezzling money from him, he later said he owes his success to King.  "When I was coming up nobody thought about Larry Holmes," said the 2008 Hall of Fame inductee. Everybody I went to turned me down. Nobody would give me a dime to my career, because my legs were too small, I couldn’t punch, I was just a copy of Muhammad Ali, that’s what Howard Cosell said. Nobody would give a dime to my career but one guy did and his name was Don King. He put his money up."

Holmes won his first world title - the WBC heavyweight belt - in 1978 after 15 thrilling rounds of action with Ken Norton. He later picked up the inaugural IBF championship and altogether made a total of 20 title defenses, behind only Joe Louis, who made 25. Not bad for a guy who was told over and over again he was never going to become heavyweight champion of the world.  "I knew I could become the champion," said Holmes. "There was nothing nobody could do to me to make me not be the heavyweight champion of the world because I wanted to prove to those who said I couldn’t do it I could do it."

He added, "Yeah, you know what? I dropped out of school in the 7th grade but I got a PhD in common sense. I’m still a multi-millionaire 30 years later. How many fighters do you know are multi-millionaires thirty years later, or three weeks later? Mike Tyson made $350 million and aint got a dime. Holyfield’s in foreclosure." [Editor's note: Evander Holyfield has denied reports that he is in financial trouble] .

Holmes said at least with him, boxing professionally wasn’t just about winning the heavyweight championship.  "I got into boxing to make the money to pay the rent," he said. "You can be the champion of the world and be broke and nobody respects you. You could be a Hall of Famer, greatest man in the world, and broke, and nobody respects you, but if you’re the heavyweight champion of the world, and got a few hundred thousand dollars in your pocket, you got a lot of respect." Holmes noted that even after he made millions in the ring, he never forgot his roots.
"Larry Holmes hasn’t forgotten where he came from. I still live in Easton, Pennsylvania," he said. In fact, Holmes not only still lives in Easton but he also gives back to the community by helping the youth through financial support of the Easton Area Community Center (Home of the Saints) - where Holmes first learned to box - and the Easton Boys and Girls Club in his old childhood neighborhood.

Holmes didn’t always have money. In fact, when Gene Kilroy - a member of Muhammad Ali’s inner circle - gave Holmes the opportunity to work with Ali in 1971, Holmes didn’t have his own pair of boxing gloves. However, "Gene Kilroy stole a pair of Ali’s to give to me and we’ve been friends ever since," said Holmes.
Holmes also thanked a few sparring partners by name and then said, "You know, fighters can make it but they don’t make it all by themselves. You need a Bob Arum, you need a Don King. If it wasn’t for these guys, who put up the money, there wouldn’t be no fights, because they have to put up the money, they take the chances and fighters sometimes forget that it’s their money that they’re putting up so that you can make money, but they want to make some money too."

Holmes also told every member of the crowd of 1,000 or so that if you give somebody something, give it from the heart because if you don’t "it aint no good and it gonna last." He said he didn’t want the International Boxing Hall of Fame to "put me in the Hall because they like me. I want them to put me in because they want to do it and because it’s real and I earned it," said Holmes.

Before he left the stage, Holmes said a few words about George Foreman, who he tried to fight during his comeback that began in the1990s. Holmes and Foreman held press conferences in 1998 for a planned Jan. 23, 1999 match-up - which would have been 13 days after Foreman’s 50th birthday - but the fight never materialized. Holmes has always maintained that Foreman was scared to fight him.

Holmes prefaced his words about Foreman by saying all this talk about Ali being "the greatest" was merely Ali’s opinion and even Holmes saying Rocky Marciano couldn’t carry his jockstrap was merely his opinion.  Holmes added, "I never said that to knock him down. I said it because I feel good about myself. I don’t think no man is better than another man."

However, when Holmes said boxing writer and historian Bert Sugar once told him he rates Holmes #11 on the all-time heavyweight rankings behind George Foreman, Holmes said to the crowd, "What the heck was he thinking? Everybody knows George Foreman can’t fight! Everybody knew that he wouldn’t fight me. He can sell y’all all the grills you want. Don’t listen to your husbands when they tell you to buy a George Foreman grill, talking about it will knock out the fat. Man, if you don’t want your hamburger to be greasy you must be crazy! I want my burger juicy. (raising his voice now). I want my steak tender and juicy. I don’t want no damn dried up burger."

Holmes, who was on a roll, added, "If I don’t want no oil on my burger, you know what I do? I tilt the pan and let it run off on down the side. If I don’t want no grease on my steak I tilt the pan, let it run on down the side and look how much money you save without a $99 George Foreman grill. You know he’s crazy! He’ll sell you anything and y’all will buy it. Anybody who names their kids George, George, George, George, George (Holmes uses a goofy voice), he’s got to be crazy."

Holmes ended his speech by saying people should be judged by who they are as a person rather than the color of their skin. He mentioned a number of interracial relationships in his family, said "half of my family is white" and added that his public relations guy "has a Jewish girl over there and he’s Italian."

"We need these people in the world. I’m just trying to teach my son (Larry) how to grow up to be a good young man and so far he’s done well and I tell him, ‘See no color, just see human being.’ "

Holmes paid the ultimate compliment to his wife of nearly 30 years - Diane - when he said, "You know, they say behind every good man is a good woman. I say I don’t know if I’m a good man but I know I got a good ass woman."



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