Larry Holmes is a retired professional boxer who was the WBC Heavyweight Champion from 1978 to 1983. Holmes was also the Ring Heavyweight Champion from 1980 to 1985, and the IBF Heavyweight Champion from 1980 to 1985. Holmes is considered by many to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Larry Holmes was born on November 3, 1949 in Cuthbert, Georgia. During his childhood, Holmes’s family was generally in great financial difficulty and they were forced to survive on welfare. He even dropped out of school in the seventh grade so that he could work at a car wash for $1 an hour.
Holmes started amateur boxing at the age of nineteen. After winning his first few fights, he fought Duane Bobick (the world amateur heavyweight champion of the time) for the 1972 Olympic Trials; Holmes eventually lost the bout due to disqualification for excessive holding. The Bobick fight would be Holmes last amateur bout, and Holmes ended his amateur career with a record of 19 wins and 3 losses.
Holmes fought his first professional match on March 21, 1973, against Rodell Dupree. At first, Holmes worked as a sparring partner for some of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, including Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Earnie Shavers and Jimmy Young. Holmes recalled that these sparring sessions helped him earn the confidence that ultimately helped him become the world heavyweight champion.
In March 1978, Larry Holmes shocked the world by defeating the world heavyweight title contender Earnie Shavers by unanimous decision. The victory against Shavers was also surprising for the boxing world as Shavers was considered by many to be the hardest punching boxer of all time. The victory set Holmes up for a title shot against Ken Norton in June 1978.
Holmes’s match against Norton was extremely competitive. Some sources state that Holmes took the match in the fifteenth round, with all judges voting the earlier fourteen rounds as draws. Holmes, now the new WBC Heavyweight Champion, then fought against Alfredo Evangelista and Ossie Ocasio, both of whom he knocked out. Holmes also had a rematch against Shavers who had knocked out Ken Norton in a single round for his title shot in his last match. Holmes went on to defend the title against Lorenzo Zanon, Leroy Jones, Scott Ledoux and Mike Weaver.
In 1980, Holmes defended his title against the legendary Muhammad Ali, who was coming out of retirement; however, Holmes dominated the fight and he later regretted that he fought so hard against a boxer whom he respected ‘a whole lot’. Holmes went on to defend his title against Trevor Berbick, Renaldo Snipes, and former World Heavyweight Champion, Leon Spinks.
In 1982, Holmes fought against an Irish American Boxer Gerry Cooney. The fight was considered to have several racial overtones; for instance, the fight purse was evenly split between the champion and the contender, and a phone was installed in Cooney’s dressing room so that he could be congratulated by the President if he had won. Even so, Holmes won the fight comfortably.
During the later years of his career, Holmes had some trouble with the WBC concerning his choice of opponents but he sorted them out; furthermore, he was recognized as the heavyweight champion by the newly formed International Boxing Federation. Holmes lost his first professional fight in 1985 against Michael Spinks; a fight that had ended his unbeaten record of 48 fights. Holmes retired in 1986 with a 48-2 record but came out of retirement several times to bring his record to 69-6. Holmes was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.