I had the chance to speak with International boxing Hall of Famer and one of the best heavyweights of all time, Larry ‘The Easton Assassin’ Holmes. Holmes was the undisputed heavyweight champion for seven and a half years and fought the likes of Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson in his career.
In this interview, Holmes spoke about how he got into the sport and what it was like to be the sparring partner of Muhammad Ali. Larry also gave spoke about the fight with Ken Norton in which he captured the heavyweight crown. Lastly, ‘The Easton Assasin’ talked about the lead up to his fight with Gerry Cooney and the public’s perception of it. Here is what Larry Holmes had to say in part one of his interview.
Robert Brown: Would you tell us how you got started in boxing and how your love affair with boxing started?
Larry Holmes: I got into boxing because I was hungry, we didn’t have money, we didn’t have nothing. I was always athletically inclined, I played football, basketball, I did everything, but boxing was the game that meant so much to me. I got into boxing and got to hang around with guys like Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali and it was great that I took that on.
Robert Brown: You were Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner for years. Can you tell us how that began and what you learned from the great Ali?
Larry Holmes: I really learned a lot from him. I learned his technique, his style, his ring generalship, I learned all of that. He was a great man and I was just happy to be around him.
Robert Brown: Your first title shot was in 1978, a fifteen round battle against Ken Norton. That fight went down as one of the greatest heavyweight fights of all time. What can you tell us about that fight?
Larry Holmes: We had a lot of fun in the ring. Kenny Norton was very tough, strong and I unfortunately hurt my arm six days before the fight but I was determined to continue to go on and to fight this guy if I had to use one arm. Fortunately I was able to get it working together and I wasn’t one hundred percent but it was one hundred and ten percent when I got into the ring with Kenny Norton because I was determined to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
That moment we fought for fifteen rounds and we fought toe-to-toe and there was no way in hell that I was gonna let Kenny Norton whoop me or anybody who got in the ring with me at that time. It was a good fight and I came out victoriously and that’s something that I will never forget and I thank Kenny Norton — may his soul rest in peace — that I was able to defeat him and go on about my business into a different rank.
Robert Brown: That fight turned out to be a split decision. At the time did you feel that you had done enough to win the fight at the time?
Larry Holmes: Yeah I thought I did. I thought I beat him by nine rounds, I beat him at least nine rounds but they gave it closer and that scared me. I thought I wasn’t gonna get it because it was so close, but I thought I would win — which I did by one point — but I was kind of afraid that I wasn’t gonna get it.
Robert Brown: You went on to face Muhammad Ali. What were your feelings like going into that fight, because no matter what, you were gonna lose in the eyes of the public weren’t you?
Larry Holmes: Back then I didn’t really care because the public really never thought too much of me anyway. I didn’t really think they were gonna think anything of me if I won the fight. But in my mind, I had to go out there and I had to win the fight, there was no two ifs and buts about what was going on but I knew I had to win the fight if I wanted to be champion.
I went out there and I did what I had to do, win the fight. The fight with Ali was good but like you said, I was dammed if I do, dammed if I don’t, so I went out there and I did what I had to do and not worry about too much about what people would say or what people would think. I just had to do what I had to do.
Robert Brown: Did the way the public felt about you in the Muhammad Ali fight, did that prepare you for what was going to happen in terms of the public and racial division that was going to occur in relation to the Gerry Cooney fight?
Larry Holmes: I couldn’t worry about that at that time, I wasn’t worrying about that. I didn’t care what they said about me, I wanted to win the heavyweight championship of the world. I wanted to be able to take care of my family and those are the things that I wanted to do and those were the things that were on my mind.
I didn’t care what people said, I didn’t care they thought. Listen man, I was in this game for thirty eight years and nobody gave me nothing, I worked hard for it every day. I was Ali’s sparring partner, I was Joe Frazier’s sparring partner, I was everybody’s sparring partner. Nobody gave me nothing, nobody gave me a chance, but guess what? I did. I did it with dedication and hard work, that’s what I did it with.
To this day the only ones that are starting to give me my respect are guys like yourself that know boxing and know that I worked hard and I deserved to be the champion and I’m not to be treated like some poop-butt, you know what I mean?
You bring guys in like Mike Tyson and you make a hero out of him and he did everything wrong in life. Somebody who’s done something clean and still lives clean and not with a whole lot of confusion, they don’t give me my credit. But you know what? I don’t care about that because I believe in God man and he will show me the way. That’s all I worry about, him showing me the way.
As long I can believe in God, I think I’m gonna be okay, I don’t worry about it. There’s so many people out there today that sell their soul, don’t believe in God and they’re rewarded but they don’t know why they’re being rewarded. They’re being rewarded because that’s the devil on them. God is always gonna be with me because I’m always gonna stay on the right side.