Larry Holmes: ďToday if I was heavyweight champion of the world I think Iíd reign for more than 7 years, Iíd probably reign for 10-15 years!Ē
by Geoffrey Ciani (Interviewed by Jenna J & Geoffrey Ciani) - Last weekís 122nd edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio (brought to you by CWH Promotions) featured an exclusive interview with former heavyweight champion of the world Larry Holmes (69-6, 44 KOs) whose championship reign included 20 title defenses stretching more than seven years. Holmes spoke about his career and also shared opinions and insight on todayís boxing landscape. Here is a complete transcript of that interview:
JENNA J: It is time for our final guest of this weekís show. He was the first Hall of Famer weíve ever had ďOn the RopesĒ and heís returning today. He is the legendary ďEaston AssassinĒ Larry Holmes. How are you doing today Larry?
LARRY HOLMES: Hey Jenna. Iím pretty good. I canít complain Iím above the ground. (laughs)
JENNA: (laughs) Hey thatís always good. So Larry, what are you up to these days?
HOLMES: You know Iím just doing a lot of real estate, trying to do real estate anyway. The economy is bad. With this recession that weíre in right now nobody is spending and nobodyís buying. So Iím at a standstill and Iím trying to earn money here and there just by making different appearances and stuff like that. Meanwhile Iím just laying back and waiting for somebody to ring my phone.
JENNA: Alright now Larry, youíre a guy who goes in and out of the gym. Have any opportunities for you to train fighters ever arisen?
HOLMES: Yeah there are opportunities for me to do that, but like I donít want to do it because Iíve done that before. While I was fighting I was managing and training fighters and I had a couple of fighters with a lot of potential but what happened is they wanted to go out and do their thing and whatever. I know boxing so if they donít listen to me theyíre not going to go anywhere. Iím not going to spend my money and waste my time with somebody that is not going to listen. A lot of times these fighters were not listening because they always wanted to listen to somebody else who had never done it. So thatís why I got my gym now and my brother is now using the gym and heís training fighters. I donít know how well heís doing or whatever, but the kids he has helping are a bunch of amateurs. Thatís all good but you know what? The bills are still coming in and we have to pay for the lights and the electric and the people who come in and clean it and work it. So I donít know how long that gym is going to be there.
JENNA: Larry do you follow boxing as much today as you used to?
HOLMES: No I donít do it because these guys are starting to recycle fighters like Pacquiao and Mosley and Mayweather and whatever. Those are the names that people recognize that could be making good money, but theyíre talking crazy. Like I understand that Mayweather is trying to talk to the man who built the Dallas football stadium and how he wants $100 million for a fight with Pacquiao. Pacquiao wants $100 million if he gets past Mosley. Mosley wants $100 million and these guys are just talking right out of their hat. Theyíre not really talking seriously because if they were theyíd have to be more reasonable on how much money they should get and how much money itís worth. To me those fights with Pacquiao and Mayweather are not worth $100 million!
JENNA: Itís interesting you bring that up. I mean Larry youíve been in boxing for so many years. What do you think of the business of boxing, and everything that surrounds getting these fights together, with the promoters, and all the money that goes around to make these fights happen, and all the things that happen behind the scenes?
HOLMES: Yeah a lot of money goes out and a lot of people still like boxing especially in the lighter weight classes. That seems to be whatís happening today with the lower weights. People are paying a lot of money for that and a lot of the fighters are not seeing it. But again a lot of fighters are saying it, but what they got to do is save it and try to hold on to it and try not try to spend it. Thatís what a lot of fighters are doing and thatís the shame of it because Iíll tell you, itís hard to come back when you lost. When you lose something itís hard to get it back and Iím talking about your dollars. You got to try and hold onto it because thatís all you got for the rest of your life. Jobs are not as easy to come by any more. Businesses are not as easy to run. I mean weíre just in a hard place right now and people got to watch what they do.
JENNA: Do you at all wish you fought in todayís era? With all of the money going around in boxing, that you would be around for these kinds of paydays that the fighters are requesting?
HOLMES: I would have loved to have been around here for these type fighters, but these guys are really not fighting anybody, theyíre not really dedicating themselves, and theyíre not disciplined. So I think I would have had a cakewalk. I reigned as heavyweight champion for seven and a half years. Today if I was heavyweight champion of the world I think Iíd reign for more than 7 years, Iíd probably reign for 10-15 years! But these guys are not dedicated.
JENNA: Touching a little bit on your career itís actually an anniversary of sorts. Itís twenty-five years ago this month where you had your second fight with Michael Spinks in a very controversial bout. Can you tell us what you remember from that fight, the decision, and the aftermath?
HOLMES: Well yeah I remember it. I remember it very well. That was a fight that stopped me from doing a lot of things because there was so much jealousy out there and so many people that did not want me to be heavyweight champion or for me to break the record of Rocky Marciano. I had all that stuff going against me and I was trying to be Larry Holmes, myself, and not worry about records or anything else and not worry about what people would say after the fight was over. I was kind of concerned about that, but you know what? I donít have any regrets. I thought I won the fight. He thought he won the fight or maybe he knew he didnít win the fight, but nevertheless Iím still going to go on. I know what happened to me with Michael Spinks in both of those fights and nobody can tell me any different. Thatís why Iím happy! Thatís why I can go on with my head up and say that Iím one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time in spite of what records they might try and say I have.
JENNA: Larry out of those two fights with Michael Spinks which one do you think was the more controversial one?
HOLMES: The first one was more controversy, well both of them were filled with controversy because what happened is the first fight in my opinion in my mind at that time, it could have been a draw. I thought I won the fight. I didnít do enough to really convince them that I really won it. Then the second fight there was no doubtóno doubt!óthat I won that one. But they didnít give it to me. Thatís the game they played, and they played it and they did a good job of doing it. They were trying to prevent me from being a part of history and maybe theyíre doing it in this life, but in another life they would not have been able to do it because God is the judge of all the judges so I donít worry about that and I leave it all in his hands.
JENNA: Alright well Larry, when people talk about you and your career they say youíre one of the most underrated heavyweight champions that weíve ever had. I mean how do you view your own legacy?
HOLMES: The same thing, they say it right. Iím the most underrated champion that weíve ever had because they didnít want me to be heavyweight champion of the world and they didnít want to give me my just dues. They wanted to talk about me not having it and me being against me in the beginning. So they wanted to talk about me. But like you said Iím the most underrated heavyweight champion of the world and thatís the way they want it. Now they want to talk about what Iíve done and everything else, but they should have been talking about what I had done and what I went through while I was going through it. Donít wait until then to talk about how great I was. Thatís what theyíre doing! Theyíre talking about how great I was but they should have been saying this when I was champion fighting. They should have been paying me like I was the greatest. They were not doing it. I took whatever I could take to get in the rankings as one of the heavyweight champions. I took whatever they gave me. Itís just about taking it, but I knew I was heavyweight champion of the world. For seven and a half years I was heavyweight champion of the world.
JENNA: Larry you mentioned that you wish you were respected more when you were heavyweight champion, but how do you feel about the way people hold you in such high regard today?
HOLMES: I love it. I think itís great that theyíre giving me my recognition. You know I think itís well overdue and Iím going to sit back and enjoy it. Thatís what I want to do. Iím going to sit back and enjoy it. Iím not going to hate anybody. Iím not going to go crazy if somebody says somebody is greater than me. Iím just going to enjoy what they give me and if they donít give me anything, itís okay too.
JENNA: Alright well Larry, weíre also joined on the line by my Co-Host Geoff.
GEOFFREY CIANI: Hi Larry. Itís a great pleasure to have you back on the show champ.
HOLMES: Thanks a lot, Geoff. I appreciate it.
CIANI: Larry I wanted to ask you, everybody pretty much universally views your jab as the greatest asset you brought into the ring with you. What do you consider to be your second best asset you brought in?
HOLMES: My determination because I always trying to prove that just as good as the next person. It was not that I was better than the next one or greater than the next person. Itís just that I was probably a little smarter than the next person because I knew what to do and how to do it and I was doing it. So I would say I was one of the next great guys out there because I knew how to fight! I could fight! There was no little boy in me. I could fight and they didnít want to understand that so therefore they didnít give me that due. But I had a lot of weapons and my last jab probably was the best out there.
CIANI: Now Larry, early in your career you had a lot of sparring sessions with some big name fighters at the time, guys like Ali, Frazier, Shavers, and Young. Iím curious which one of those guys sparring gave the most valuable learning experience in the early portions of your career?
HOLMES: Well you know being around Muhammad Ali for the years that I had been around him, watching him gave me the most experience that I ever would have. Iím not just talking about in the ring boxing him. Iím talking outside of the ring. By having me and letting me travel with him to different places and fighting on the under cards I learned a great deal about Muhammad Ali. You canít buy the experience that I had. You canít buy it. Ali was a great man and I tried to emulate and copy him and that was another one of my problems. I wanted to be like him and a lot of people were saying I was a copycat and I needed to get my own style. I said whatever worked for me thatís what Iím going to do. Aliís style worked for me. Thatís what I did and I did change it a little bit here and a little bit there. Same thing with Joe Louis, I copied him, I copied Frazier, I copied everybody. Whatever helped me at the time thatís what I went for.
CIANI: You mentioned how he helped you outside the ring just as much as inside the ring, but while you two were sparring together, when you first started working with him can you tell us a little bit about what those sessions were like and what was it like the first time you got the best of him?
HOLMES: Well Iíll tell you what, it was always a little bit of competition with Ali and I because first of all, when I started with him he wanted to show me that heís the boss which I already knew because the guy was paying me. So I knew I was going to go out there and work with him and not try to hurt him and hope that I donít get hurt because I wanted to keep my job. We went through a lot of years like that, blow to blow, getting a little quicker than him, taking a few shots that I didnít have to take. I learned how to do that. Thatís why I was able to keep my job for four years. But when it came down to me just getting ready to fight Muhammad, I said hey man this is it I quit. Iím going on my own. Iím going to make my own way in the heavyweight division and therefore I quit and three years later I was heavyweight champion of the world.
CIANI: Okay, now in those three years before you became heavyweight champion, which fight before your fight with Norton would that you would define as the fight that was most important for you to your career at that point?
HOLMES: Earnie Shavers. Earnie Shavers was the first fight. It was an elimination fight for the WBC belt heavyweight championship of the world and the winner would have to fight the winner of Kenny Norton and Jimmy Young. Kenny Norton won the title and then I won over Earnie Shavers and then they had to fight the top guy from the elimination and that happened to be me because I beat Earnie Shavers. As I said that was a great moment for me that day.
CIANI: You mentioned determination earlier as being probably the second best asset you brought into the ring with you and that was something on display in the fight where you did win the heavyweight championship. Can you take us through that whole fight from the moment it was signed until the moment your hand was raised in victory?
HOLMES: Hey listen, getting ready to fight Kenny Norton for the heavyweight championship of the world was one of the greatest things. Except one day six days prior to the fight I pulled a muscle in my arm, and once I pulled that muscle in my arm I almost thought I was out of the picture. But with me praying and overcoming it with ice and heat and working it and massaging it, I was able to do it. I was able to overcome that problem. I went out there not thinking that Iím going to be as good as I was. With the pressure that he put on me, when the pressure was on me, I was able to overcome that and I went on and won the heavyweight championship.
JENNA: Alright Larry, to change things up a little bit, you mentioned earlier about fighters like Mayweather and Pacquiao. Iím just curious what do you think about those superstars today? I mean besides for asking for the money they are what do you think about the stars of todayís game?
HOLMES: I think itís great! Anytime you can accomplish something and get the PR and the publicity behind it where people are looking, and wondering, and talking about it. I think itís great. I donít envy those guys. They should cherish the moment because this doesnít happen each and every day. I just hope they wake up, especially Mayweather, and smell the coffee. Because itís not every day somebody is going to come offer you $25 million to go out there and get your butt beat or beat somebody up. So therefore he should cherish that moment. Iím happy to see those guys doing it because fighters go through a lot and at the end of the day they donít have a lot because of promoters, and trainers, and managers, and what not. So Iím hoping that Pacquiao and Mayweather will come out okay. I think they will.
JENNA: Now Pacquiao is a guy who was champion at 112 pounds and now heís a belt holder at 147. What do you think about him as a fighter and what heís accomplished being a champion in eight weight classes?
HOLMES: Well I think he covers a lot being a champion, but the hardest thing for him was to move up in weight. You know as long as he moves up in weight and eats the right foods and not tries to burn it off every night that he goes into the gym then I think heíll be fine, because he can really carry the weight because he has the height. Heís almost about as Mayweather I understand so heíll be fine. I donít really see too much of a problem with that and not only that heís a likeable guy. I think heís the Governor or something in his country or whatever it is. He holds an office somewhere over there in the Philippines. I think the guy is pretty smart. One thing I donít like about Pacquiao is I think he trains too hard! You know you can leave it on the field if you train too hard and you donít want to do that. You want to go in there and you want to have it all the way through that fight.
JENNA: People out there and everyone in the boxing world really want to see a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao. We talked about it before and how much money Mayweather has been wanting for it, but what do you think it truly is? Do you think itís about the money or do you think maybe itís a case of Mayweather not wanting to fight Pacquiao?
HOLMES: Well Iíll tell you what, I donít know. I donít think Mayweather really wants to fight Pacquiao because if somebody offered me $25 million Iím an old man and Iíd come out of retirement and fight anybody because that is a lot of money to turn down. Pacquiao gets $25 million. They should go ahead and fight, the same as Mayweather and Mayweather is the one who turned it down. I wouldnít do that if I was him.
JENNA: Well Larry youíre no stranger to a super fight. You had a big fight in the early 80s with Gerry Cooney. How do you draw the comparison between the big super fights today and the big super fight you had back in 1982?
HOLMES: Well the fights today and the fights from yesterday back in that day were quite different. A lot more money was given, fighters were more determined, and they hit much harder. So when I fought Gerry Cooney it was a good fight, a hard fight, and a fight that he wanted and I wanted so we didnít really care too much about the money. $10 million is a lot of money and we took it and those guys would not have taken it.
JENNA: Gerry doesnít seem to get too much credit for what he accomplished during his career because he lost his only title shot against you. Iím wondering how you feel about the way people view Gerry Cooneyís career?
HOLMES: Well you know I would tell Gerry to tell everyone that doesnít like him and talks stuff about him to go to hell, because Gerry Cooney was a nice guy. He is a nice guy! Heís still my friend and we still talk. Gerry fought his butt off and he just happened to be fighting a guy who was a little bit better than him. If it was anybody else outside of me I felt that he would have been heavyweight champion of the world. A lot of people do put him down and I hear it and I tell it just like Iím telling you. Donít put Gerry down because Gerry fought and he fought hard and he could have been a heavyweight champion of the world if he wouldnít have fought me on that day. We all have our good days and bad days you know, and that was my good day and that was Gerryís bad day. So people should not talk about it and they should give him the credit that he deserves because he was a hell of a fighter!
JENNA: Larry are you at all disappointed that you didnít get more credit after you beat Gerry Cooney in the 80s?
HOLMES: Well you forget Iím black. They ainít never going to give a black man the credit that he deserves, especially if he beats a white guy. Theyíre not going to give me the credit, but I didnít care about the credit. You know I just cared about me not getting hurt, me not hurting anybody, and me putting money in my pockets so I can put it in the bank. Thatís all I worried about and thatís what I fought for. Everybody said I boxed because I liked boxing and I liked getting punched in the face. No, I didnít like boxing and I didnít like getting punched in the face. I liked making money and thatís what made me.
CIANI: Which one of your championship performances was the one you were proudest of?
HOLMES: June 9, 1978 when I fought Kenny Norton in Las Vegas. That was the proudest for me because at that time nobody was thinking about Larry Holmes. A lot of people back here in the hometown said, ďHe ainít nothing! He canít fight! Kenny Norton is going to kill him! He canít fight! He canít beat anybody!Ē And that was one of the proudest days of my life, when I proved to everybody who said I couldnít do it wrong. They were wrong and I showed them that I can do it and I did it.
CIANI: Larry Iím wondering if you can tell us and the fans out there a little bit about your decision behind when y ou dropped the WBC belt and accepted to become the first IBF heavyweight champion of the world?
HOLMES: Well Iíll tell you I was stuck between a rock and a hard place because thatís what I wanted to do. I wanted to fight anybody and everybody, but I wanted to get the most money that I could get when I fought them. A lot of times I was not able to do that but then everybody was saying take this, take that, and I took what I could take.
CIANI: Earlier Jenna spoke about your anniversary, your fights with Spinks. Iím wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your fight with Mike Tyson and generally what your thoughts were on Tyson as a champion following you?
HOLMES: Well first of all let me just say this, when I fought Mike Tyson I didnít fight Mike Tyson. I wasnít even ready. I was two years off for Mike Tyson. I wasnít out there training. I was singing and hanging out. I wasnít really into fighting Mike Tyson. I had quit. Don King came to me and offered me $3.5 million. I said I might as well take the fight. I took the fight on short notice. They only gave me two months to get ready for the fight and then I fell short. Mike Tyson beat me, and after that I quit and went back to the things I was doing with the band and whatever. Then I told people how it was. Mike Tyson is going to be a great fighter but his mind is not going to be there to be a great fighter because heís going to do anything and everything that he wants to do. I told people in five years or whatever he would be in jail, and everything I predicted and said about Mike Tyson came true. I mean I like Mike Tyson. I think heís a good guy. I just think he needs to think about what heís going to do before he does it.
CIANI: Now Larry, we recently had Buster Douglas on the program here for an interview. What were your thoughts at the time when Buster beat Tyson and were you surprised by the results in that fight?
HOLMES: No, I wasnít surprised because Buster Douglas is a boxer. He used his jab and stayed on the outside. Mike Tyson never adjusted. He never fought anybody who was going to hit him back and when Buster Douglas hit him back I wasnít surprised. Everybody else was.
CIANI: The last guy who was considered a great heavyweight champion was Lennox Lewis, and a lot of times people say, ďLennox Lewis had the best jab since Larry HolmesĒ.
HOLMES: No, Lennox Lewis doesnít have no jab! Iím sorry. I didnít mean to cut you off, but Lennox Lewis donít have no jab. He ainít never had a jab. He got Emanuel Steward and Emanuel Steward was trying to teach him how to jab. He donít have no jab! Lennox Lewis donít have no jab, he has no heart, but if he gets started on you heís got the biggest heart in the world and heís going to kill you. But I have seen the dog come out of Lennox Lewis a couple of times when he fought, and I donít think he had it. And he never had the jab! So donít even put him in there and talk about his jab because he ainít never had a jab.
CIANI: So how do you think you at your best would have matched up against a prime Lewis?
HOLMES: Listen man, I donít go that way. If I went the way I would tell you and people would be mad at me because there is nobody in boxing history that would have beaten me if I was in my prime at the same time as them. I donít feel that anybody could beat me. Then thatís everybodyís opinion. When you say you could beat Joe Louis, or Marciano, or Dempsey or anybody else. Oh no you couldnít! You could beat Ali. Oh no you couldnít! So I donít even get in that. I always say to everybody if you ask me who the greatest fighter of all time is Iím going to say me! Larry Holmes! If you ask to take me out of the picture, yeah I can take me out of the picture and say maybe Muhammad Ali, maybe Joe Louis, maybe Rocky Marciano, maybe Dempsey. I can say that! But when you ask me the question Iím going to say Larry Holmes and thatís the way Iíve always done that.
JENNA: Well Larry we just have a few more questions before we let you off the line, and I mentioned earlier at the beginning of the show it was an anniversary of sorts and itís also another anniversary this month. Twenty years ago this month you made your comeback to boxing and Iím just curious why did you decide to come back and what were your expectations?
HOLMES: I had seen that no one was out there who could really fight and I thought if these guys are fighting like that I can go back and win the heavyweight championship of the world and make money while Iím doing it. Thatís why I made my decision to make a comeback to do that. The only one thing about it where I fell short, I never thought I was going to suffer a detached retina in my training going back to the fight when I got in the ring with Evander Holyfield. When I fought Evander Holyfield I just had gotten out of the fight with Ray Mercer and before that fight with Ray Mercer I had suffered a detached retina, but I closed my eyes and I beat Ray Mercer anyway. Then I went in the hospital and got an operation right after that, but my eye was not really ready for me to go in and fight. But it was kind of hard to turn down $10 million or $12 million to fight a guy that I thought didnít have anything. So I went in there with Ray Mercer and I came out with a split decision and then I thought I may as well quit again because I had a problem with my eye. People kept talking to me and talking to me. You can come back and do this. You had a problem with your eye. So I came back and I just came back to do one thing, make the money and then get a record number up to 75 fights.
JENNA: You mentioned Ray Mercer before. When you fought him he was undefeated. He was 18-0 and people werenít giving you much of a chance. Do you consider beating him like winning the championship again because he was the linear WBO champion when you beat him?
HOLMES: (laughs) Yeah, they never gave me the belt, but I didnít care about that. Yeah, I considered myself as being a part of the champion, but they didnít give me that respect or whatever. I didnít really care. I really didnít care. I had done it because the world had me a five to one underdog. I was going to lose. I could not win. I had reporters come to me and say donít get hurt. I said, ďIím not going to get hurt, Iím going to kick his ass!Ē Excuse my language. Beep that one out! (laughs)
JENNA & CIANI: (laughs)
HOLMES: Iím sorry. Beep that one out, but thatís what it was. I told everybody what I was going to do and I even told Ray Mercer what I was going to do.
JENNA: Well you got one final shot at it against Oliver McCall in í95 for the WBC belt. Do you believe you won that fight with him?
HOLMES: I donít know if I won it or not. I really didnít care. When I went into the fight I broke my hand like six weeks before the fight. My right hand was broke but I went in there and fought him anyway. I couldnít even use my right hand, but it was a close fight. If he won, he won. If he didnít, he didnít. I donít know. I donít really care about it. Itís a fight I never really thought of and people never mention about that guy. So it was okay. Nobody even knows Oliver McCall. So it didnít matter to me. I got paid and I was building a building and thatís all I wanted it for at that time.
JENNA: Now Larry when people look back in the history books how do you think they should remember Larry Holmes?
HOLMES: I donít know. Every time somebody asks me that I come up with something different. I want to be remembered as a guy who did it my way. I did it my way. I got out there and went through it and played the game or whatever I did and became the champion, and I did it without getting hurt and Iím alright! I donít have any sicknesses like a lot of them fighters have, like Muhammad Ali has, and Joe Frazier, and Kenny Norton. A lot of those guys canít walk, they canít talk, and Iím not like that. I think I got my faculties. I think Iím pretty well and these guys are not. So I escaped. Ali has been like this for a long time. He canít even talk.
JENNA: Well Larry, I have one final question. You have a lot of fans around the world, a lot of people who supported you during your career, and there have been fans after it. Is there anything you want to say to those people?
HOLMES: I would like to say to all my fans who have watched me box or seen me box, I never got into boxing to try to hurt anybody. I got into boxing to try and make some money and I hope I did enough to please people. I wish all the fighters out there the best and I wish theyíd all keep their noses clean because itís hard out there today. It was hard when I was fighting too, but keep your nose clean and work hard at what you want.
JENNA: Alright well Larry, itís been fantastic having a chance to once again interview you. For all the fans listening out there you can go to www.larryholmes.com to catch up with Larry. Larry, thank you again for your time. We wish you all the best!
HOLMES: Okay! Thanks guys. Bye!
CIANI: Thanks Larry!
For those interested in listening to the Larry Holmes interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and seventeen minutes into the program.
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Article posted on 02.05.2011
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