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Scoop Malinowski Interviews Larry Holmes

 

By Scoop Malinowski

Former World Heavyweight Champion Larry Holmes is always one of my favorites to interview. Here is a classic chat we had in 2004 covering a range of topics, including how Larry felt he was just an average kid, Ali training camp memories, who was the greatest, his famous fans, and much more…(Interview was originally published in International Boxing Digest magazine)…

Q – George Foreman has made it clear he’s coming back. You are still active, most recently defeating Butterbean. Rumors persist that a Holmes-Foreman fight may yet still happen. True?

Larry Holmes: “You know what? I’d fight till when I get to be 90. But I don’t want George Foreman. George is doing what he wants to do and so be it. I’m just doing my thing man, that’s all I’m doing, I’m doing my thing.”

Q – Let’s go back to the beginning of your life. Did you have any dreams as a young kid in Easton, PA?

Larry Holmes: “I wanted to be President of the United States. Then a football star like O.J. Simpson or Tony Dorsett. Then I dropped out of school and that dream went out the window. Then I decided on fighting – to make some money for my family. I had those goals. To become heavyweight champion came later.”

Q – What’s an early boxing memory you have?

Larry Holmes – “I remember when people used to tell me I wasn’t gonna be shit. My goal was to prove them wrong. I always felt good about myself. I was just an average person. I always felt I could do anything anyone else could. If an average person makes up their mind to do something, they can.”

Q – What was your pre-fight mindset?

Larry Holmes: “I would think about the outcome. Visualize sometimes. Because it never comes out the way you want it to. Fight the way I know how to fight. Whatever comes up, comes up. So many things can happen. (Would you look at your opponent after entering the ring?) Yeah, I’d look at him. What am I supposed to do, close my eyes [smiles]? Let him know there’s no boy in me. There’s all man. If he wants to kick my ass, he’s gonna have to kick a man’s ass.”

Q – Any funny memories in boxing come to mind?

Larry Holmes: “When I beat some guy in Las Vegas. And I had my mom there. And she started crying. And Redd Foxx says to her, ‘Why you crying?’ Because I’m happy. He says, ‘What do you do when you’re sad [smiles]?”

Q – How about the experience of training with Muhammad Ali at Deer Lake, that must have been priceless?

Larry Holmes: “Yeah it was. I learned a lot. I learned discipline. I learned the discipline that he had. Ali was a guy that had a lot of discipline. If you hung around him, you’d be able to get some of that discipline that he had. And I learned from that. He was a sweet man.”

Q – Do you remember a certain moment when you realized, believed in your own mind that you would one day become a heavyweight champion?

Larry Holmes: “Yeah, I thought I could be heavyweight champion of the world when I was working with Ali and Joe Frazier and Earnie Shavers and all those guys. Because they were older than me and I was doing my thing. Nobody ever said anything (to that effect), the only person that said anything was Ali. He said, ‘That boy is good!’ That’s all. I don’t remember the year, it was about 1971.”

Q – Who was your toughest opponent?

Larry Holmes: “Kenny Norton was the toughest (W 15 in 1978). Because he fought the shit out of me for 15 rounds. I mean, he didn’t give one inch. He fought me for 15 rounds. Strong, determined, never gives up. Earnie Shavers – punches too f***** hard! Gerry Cooney – too big, too tall. Good jab, good left hook. Mike Tyson.”

Q – What fight were you at your best?

Larry Holmes: “I don’t feel that I ever got the chance to show my very best. I felt like I was lacking something. I don’t think I showed my best. I still think I owe something to boxing. Either what I was doing was enough to get rid of the guys or I never felt like I was 100%.”

Q – Talk about Mike Weaver, what you remember about him?

Larry Holmes: “He was awkward. One thing about him was he had a great pair of thumbs. He could thumb you. After he thumbs you man, you can’t see those punches coming. Of course, he can hit. That’s what Mike made all his bank with, he punched very hard.”

Q – Lorenzo Zanon?

Larry Holmes: “Nothing. Awkward fighter. Just a guy that was out in front of you. That’s it.”

Q – Leroy Jones?

Larry Holmes: “Big, strong, tough. He was bigger than me. He was 245 pounds, 6-5 or 6-6. But I was quicker and punched harder.”

Q – Ossie Ocasio?

Larry Holmes: “Another awkward fighter. Very awkward. Punches good. But I think he was just too small for me at the time.”

Q – Renaldo Snipes?

Larry Holmes: “Well, same thing, he punches hard, he was awkward. Most of them guys who punched hard were awkward. And he was very awkward. And that’s why he was as good as he was. He had a heckuva style with his awkwardness. And his cockiness [smiles].”

Q- Tex Cobb?

Larry Holmes: “He was gutsy. Determined. Just very strong, takes a lot of shots. Like a face-first fighter. He was pretty good. But he didn’t have nothin’ for me. Too much, I was too strong, I was able to slip and slide his punches and land mine. He really didn’t have nothin’ for me. But he was strong. Because he took a lot.”

Q – Were there any particular fights you wanted but never got?

Larry Holmes: “I don’t know if I had one or not. I don’t know if I ever wanted one. I just went out there fighting, man. I didn’t really care. I was just fighting.”

Q – All the heavyweight champs attract famous people as fans and admirers, who were some of your famous fans?

Larry Holmes: “Redd Foxx. I think Ali was a fan of mine, even though he never said it. A lot of fighters thought I was pretty good. Nobody every really spoke different on that. But a lot of fighters thought I was good so. Bill Cosby, I know him. The football player from Pittsburgh, who fought in Vietnam, what’s his name…Rocky Bleier. He came out to see me a few times. Him and I hung out together a few times.”

Q – You’ve been friends with Roberto Duran for over thirty years now. How did you meet him?

Larry Holmes: “Roberto Duran, I talk to him as much as I can. He trained at my gym. I met him when he beat Ken Buchanan in 1972. He was kind enough to take pictures with me. I met him through Saoul Mamby. He’s a good guy, man. A champion who loves to live. He played the bongos at my club.”

Q – You are considered one of the best heavyweight champions of all-time. At your best, I believe you have the style, the jab, to possibly beat anyone in history – Ali, Louis, Dempsey, Johnson, Marciano, Lewis – would you agree or disagree?

Larry Holmes: “I would agree 100% [smiles]. I mean, I was, man…listen. I hate to say this stuff about myself, but you know, if I don’t, nobody else will. I was probably the best that ever walked this earth. And I could take a punch. I could deliver a punch. I didn’t have the hardest punch in the world but my punches were sharp and they were crisp. And if you took too many of them, you would be knocked out. And that’s what I go by. I think I could beat everybody out there. Being with Ali, working with Ali, it made me see it.”

Q – Who are your favorite boxing TV commentators you like to listen to?

Larry Holmes: “One of the best ones out there was a guy named Howard Cosell. He was the best. He didn’t know shit about boxing [laughs]. What made him good is he was a showman, he bragged about himself. He was great at what he did. Just the way he came across. I liked the way he talked. And you had that guy who used to be at HBO…Barry Tompkins. The best. He had the gift, you know? He knows how to say it. He knows the basics about boxing. The guy with him (on Fox), Rich Marotta does a good job. They call boxing like it is. And I like them. I like listening to them. The guy now, Teddy Atlas…come on, give me a break. He worked with Mike Tyson, so what? Who’s that guy from Minnesota who I beat? Scott LeDoux. Give me a break. What do they really know about boxing? To tell people about boxing like they do, I think you need to be a boxer.”

Q – How would you like to be remembered by boxing?

Larry Holmes – “As somebody who did it his way. Just like Frank Sinatra, I done it my way. I done it the way I wanted to do it. I became what I wanted to become and I think the rest is history.”

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