Today, let’s take a look at the life and accomplishments of Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes. When looking at the Heavyweight division of the past, stuck in the era between the great Muhammad Ali and the always media friendly Mike Tyson, Holmes’ name often gets overlooked. Holmes is one of the few fighters to have faced both of the aforementioned fighters. Holmes had a long (1973-2002) and busy career, competing in 75 total bouts.
After a rough childhood, helping support his large household (twelve children) with low paying jobs, Holmes turned to boxing at the age of 19. He had a successful amateur career consisting of 19 wins with only 3 losses. After qualifying for the 1972 Olympic trials, his final amateur bout was a loss at the hands of Duane Bobick, who would go on to represent the U.S.A in the 1972 Olympics.
Holmes then turned to the professional side of the sport, and had his first pro match on March 21st 1973, a fight that would mark the beginning of a long string of victories in the Heavyweight division. He earned a decent income, and gained experience early in his career working as a sparring partner for many notable Heavyweights (Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier to name a couple). Over the next five years, his impressive, undefeated record of 26 wins with 19 knockouts, earned him a WBC Heavyweight Title eliminator bout against the accomplished Earnie Shavers. Shavers’ wealth of experience was not enough, and Holmes scored a very convincing unanimous decision victory, earning him a title shot against Ken Norton. Holmes weathered the storm against Norton winning his first title, the WBC Heavyweight strap, through a split decision victory.
Holmes continued to conquer the division, scoring several victories including a rematch against Earnie Shavers, a 10th round stoppage against a past-his-prime Muhammad Ali, and future title holders such as Trevor Berbick and James “Bonecrusher” Smith. His domination of the division continued to amass an undefeated record of 48 wins, almost tying Rocky Marcianos’ undefeated Heavyweight record of 49 wins.
Holmes suffered losses in his next two bouts against the former Olympic gold medalist, Michael Spinks, by unanimous and split decisions consecutively. The losses hit Holmes in a powerful way, causing him to briefly hang up his gloves and retire from the sport. A comeback fight on January 22nd 1988 resulted in a devastating fourth round knockout loss against the powerhouse Mike Tyson. Holmes again decided the time had come to give up the sport.
Three years later, the former champion Holmes decided to make another run for the title. His comeback fight on April 7th 1991 was a first round knockout victory over Tim Anderson. Holmes stayed busy for the remainder of his career suffering only three more defeats out of twenty-four matches. All three defeats were for a Heavyweight championship belt (Evander Holyfield, Oliver McCall, and Brian Nielsen respectively.) Holmes announced his final retirement from the sport in 2002, with a great final record of 69 victories with 44 knockouts, and only 6 defeats, all of which were title fights.
Post retirement saw Holmes take residence back at his childhood hometown of Easton Pennsylvania. He made good decisions with his earnings, opening numerous businesses and providing many job opportunities in an effort to give back to his community. Throughout his life he has also been seen as a singer and a television personality. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the 2008 class. After all is said and done, not bad for a young Pennsylvania middle school dropout.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and I intend to write more about former greats in the future. Please follow me on Twitter @TheGreatToddman, I would love to hear you opinions and talk boxing with you.