By Scoop Malinowski
Larry Holmes turned pro in March 1973 when he decisioned Rodell Dupree in Scranton, PA. His journey from Easton, PA to world Heavyweight champion included stops in Bronx, NY. “Back in ’68, ’69 I used to drive from Easton to the Bronx Gleason’s Gym every day. I met Saoul in the gym. He was one of the first guys I met there. We’ve been friends ever since. He could work the jab.”
Holmes was still a teenager back then, just about to turn twenty. He says he didn’t learn much from Mamby or vice versa, “I had my style, he had his. I couldn’t teach him anything. Back then I used to get tired after the fourth round. He told me, ‘You expend all your energy too early. He told me to try to conserve energy. I worked on that.”
Did he ever. Holmes won the world title and made twenty successful defenses from 1978 to 1985.
Mamby was a couple of years older than Holmes. He turned pro in 1969 in Kingston, Jamaica with a points win vs. Roy Goss. His second fight was in New York City in June 1970, a decision win vs. Henry Ocasio at the Audubon Ballroom.
Holmes remembers Mamby in those days as “a good man. But he was hard-headed.”
When Holmes won the world Heavyweight title in 1978 against Ken Norton, he became one of the biggest attractions in the sport. Their friendship bond was so solid that Holmes took steps to help his pal. “He fought on a lot of my shows,” said Holmes. “Every time I fought I’d try to get him on my card, to get him some fights.”
Mamby won the WBC Super Lightweight title in February 1980 by 14th round stoppage of Sang Hyun Kim in Korea. Mamby then made his first world title defense on July 7, 1980 in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the undercard of Holmes’ defense against Scott LeDoux. Mamby stopped Esteban DeJesus in the 13th round. Both championship bouts were televised on a Saturday afternoon by ABC with Chris Schenkel and Howard Cosell calling the action at ringside.
Mamby’s second title defense was on the Holmes vs. Muhammad Ali undercard on October 1980. He beat Termite Watkins.
Mamby’s third title defense against Jo Kimpuani was in Detroit in 1981 on the Holmes vs. Leon Spinks undercard.
However, Don King and Mamby did not quite see eye to eye. “I don’t think King really liked Mamby,” Holmes remembers. “He’s a New Yorker. When he wants something, he wanted it. Don wanted it his way too. You know how that goes.”
Holmes and Mamby lost contact in recent years. They had a difference of opinion in 2008. Holmes had concerns, major concerns about his friend’s decision to fight a pro match at the age of 60. “One of his last fights was overseas. I told him, Don’t go, don’t do it. They could be setting you up. You can’t keep taking all those punches and survive. He said, ‘It’ll be all right.’ He went down there (Georgetown, Guyana) and lost (an eight round decision to Anthony Osbourne, who had a record of 6-27-1). I talked with him once or twice since then. I called him after but nobody answered. I never talked to him again.”
Holmes learned about his friend’s passing earlier this week. He heard from somebody Mamby was already buried but is not sure if that’s true news. If the funeral or memorial is later this week, Holmes will attend to pay respects to his old friend and fellow world champion.