Jose Ribalta was 30 when he boxed Larry Holmes in 1993 at Bay St. Louis in Mississippi. Ribalta had a record of 32-9-1 and was still a respected contender while Holmes, 43 at the time, was looking for one last world title shot and payday. Ribalta shares memories about the surreal experience of boxing one of the all-time great heavyweight champions Larry Holmes…
Scoop: What do you remember about boxing Larry Holmes?
Jose Ribalta: "I have never boxed anyone that glided on the canvas the way he did. I thought it was not real what I was seeing when I was going after him. And his jab was like a Tyson right hand."
Scoop: It must have been very hard to fight a guy with one of the best jabs of all time. And also very good legs and movement.
Jose Ribalta: "His jab was excellent. I will never encounter a jab like that ever again. But Ali had a pretty great jab also, not as hard as Larry’s jab." (Note: Ribalta sparred Ali in Miami Beach in the early 80′s, a few years after Ali retired from boxing after the loss to Trevor Berbick.)
Scoop: What was your physical condition for the Holmes fight?
Jose Ribalta: "I was in good shape. He was just a good fighter. I was in better form for him than I was for Mike Tyson (in 1986). I think Larry Holmes was a more talented fighter than Mike Tyson."
Scoop: Were you able to offset Holmes? Did you have any success against him during the fight? What was your gameplan?
Jose Ribalta: "Well, it was to put pressure on him. But I realized that when you put pressure on him, he boxed better. What really hurt me in that fight was when he threw that right hand that knocked me down. I never saw it coming. He told me after the fight that he never hit no one as hard as he hit me with that right hand."
Scoop: How did he treat you before the fight?
Jose Ribalta: "He was nervous. He kept asking me at the weigh-in how much do I usually weigh for a fight? Because I came in at 235 and he kept looking at me, from across the room. I knew he was nervous."
Scoop: They say a scared fighter is the most dangerous fighter. How were your nerves before the fight?
Jose Ribalta: "I was never nervous that much when I boxed big name guys. The only guy I was nervous against was Tyson. And I kept asking myself why am I being nervous? Because I will fight him right now in a street fight. So why am I nervous?"
Scoop: Changing it up, did you ever have a dream while you slept about certain fights or a fighter?
Jose Ribalta: "I did once but right now I cannot remember, but I did."
Scoop: Ever run into Larry Holmes since? Ever talk to him again?
Jose Ribalta: "Yes, I call him every once in a while and ask him about the reality show I was trying to put together."
Scoop: So you guys are friends?
Jose Ribalta: "Well I guess. Because I called him and told him I had a fan, that a fan wanted to talk with him. I also talk to Bonecrusher, Riddick Bowe, Tyrell Biggs, and a couple more top fighters, Gerry Cooney also. I talk to Cooney the most."
Jose Manuel Ribalta lost by unanimous decision to Larry Holmes, with the scorecards tabulating 97-92, 100-90 and 98-90. Ribalta continued to box until 1999 but stopped after losing to Razor Ruddock. His final ring record was 38-17-1 (27 KO’s). Holmes received one final title shot in 1995 against WBC champ Oliver McCall in Las Vegas but lost by unanimous decision. Holmes’ last fight was a points win over Butterbean in Norfolk, VA in 2002. His final ring record stands at 69-6 (44 KO’s).