By Ken Hissner: If you ask Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes who was greater, him or Muhammad Ali, he would answer, “me!”
Holmes, from Easton, PA, Boxrec shows 11-3. He was knocked out and, in their second fight, stopped by southpaw Nick Wells of the Air Force and Texas. He lost in the Olympic Trials in 1972 to Duane Bobick by DQ for excessive holding. He defeated Philly’s Marvin Stinson twice and later used him as a sparring partner.
As a professional, Holmes debuted in March 1973 and won his first 17 fights with number 17 against Duane Bobick’s brother Rodney, 34-5, which was his first major opponent. In his twenty-second fight, he defeated Philly’s Roy “Tiger” Williams, 23-4, in April of 1976.
Five fights later, Holmes fought his first ranked contender in hard-hitting Earnie “Black Destroyer” Shavers, 54-6-1, in a WBC title eliminator, winning a 12 round decision.
This earned Holmes a title fight three months later against WBC champion Ken Norton, 40-4, whom he beat by a split decision. Norton’s advisor Bobby Goodman told me at Ali’s Cherry Hill, New Jersey home, “Neither wanted a rematch due to how tough the fight was.”
In Holmes’ fourth defense, he had a rematch with Shavers, 59-7-1, and found himself on the canvas in the seventh round but came back to stop Shavers in the eleventh round.
In his eighth defense, Holmes stopped former champion Muhammad Ali whom he once served as a sparring partner at his Deer Lake, PA, training camp.
I visited Ali at his camp, and when I saw how fat and out of shape he was, I asked, “why are you taking this fight?” You once had one of the best physiques among the champions but look at you now.” He padded his big belly and said, “I like my ice cream!”
In Ali’s next-to-last fight, Holmes stopped him, and it was the only time he’d been stopped in his career. Ali followed this with future champion Trevor Berbick, 18-1-1, who ended his career.
Holmes would follow with defenses with wins over former champ Leon Spinks, 10-2-2, Renaldo Snipes, 22-0, and Gerry Cooney, 25-0, all by stoppage. In his next fight, he defeated Randall “Tex” Cobb, 20-2, winning every round in giving him such a brutal beating that commentator Howard Cosell retired from working boxing matches. That was like two victories in one.
Holmes was 42-0 when he won a disputed split decision over future champion “Terrible” Tim Witherspoon, 15-0, another former sparring partner for Ali and a future world champion.
Two fights later, “Smokin” Joe Frazier sent Holmes’ son, Marvis, 10-0, in as a sacrificial lamb to face 44-0 Holmes, who destroyed the younger Frazier at 2:57 of the first round and then proclaimed, ” that’s for the whippings your daddy gave me in the gym!”
Next for Holmes was future champion James “Bonecrusher” Smith, 14-1, stopping him in twelve rounds, and adding the vacant IBF title. Two fights later, Holmes won his second disputed decision, this time over Carl “The Truth” Williams, 16-0. One judge gave it to Holmes 143-142.
After this fight, now at 48-0, Holmes in 1985 was ready to be beaten, and that opponent was Olympic Gold Medalist and world light heavyweight champion Michael “Jinx” Spinks, 27-0, who defeated Holmes by a 15 round unanimous decision. . Holmes then made what some boxing fans felt was a racist remark, saying, “Marciano couldn’t wear my jock strap!” He was referring to Marciano’s 49-0 record. He said nothing about Spinks defeating him.
In the rematch, Holmes lost a disputed 15 round split decision to Spinks. Three fights later, Spinks was destroyed in the first round by “Iron” Mike Tyson, who previously obliterated Holmes, the then-former champ having lost twice to Spinks in four rounds. As soon as Tyson, 32-0, laid some heavy leather on Holmes, he was on his bicycle. Holmes later claimed, “I caught my arm on the ropes trying to land a punch when he caught me!”
Holmes, 53-3, would go on to win five straight over average opponents when he met former Olympic Gold Medalist Ray “Merciless” Mercer, 18-0, who, after defeating Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, gave up his WBO title. Holmes gave Mercer a boxing lesson, easily defeating him.
In Holmes’s next fight, he lost by decision to former Olympic Gold Medalist and world champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 27-0, by a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision.
Another seven wins over average opponents and Holmes was defeated by WBC world champion Oliver McCall, 25-5, by a narrow 12 round unanimous decision. McCall had defeated Lennox “The Lion” Lewis in his previous fight.
After four more wins against average opponents, Holmes went to Denmark, losing a disputed split decision to IBO champion “Super” Brian Nielsen, 31-0, from Denmark. Nielsen would be 49-0 when he lost for the first time. In Holmes’s next three fights, he defeated a pair of former champions in a rematch with “Bonecrusher” Smith, 44-16-1, and Mike “Hercules” Weaver, 41-17-1, before his final match defeating Eric “Butterbean” Esch, 65-2-3, known as the ‘King of the four rounders,’ making him accept a 10 round bout. In the tenth and final round, Holmes hit the canvas after getting caught by a punch or by having his foot stepped on by Esch. Holmes retired after this match in July of 2002, 29 years after his debut, with a 69-6 record and 44 stoppages.
There you have it fight fans. Just how good was Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes, or as Ali nicknamed him, “Peanut Head?”