Friday, March 28, 2008

The Day I Saw Holmes Arrive

Many boxing observers have conveyed to me over the years that they knew by 1976-77, that Larry Holmes was a future champ. This is a fraternity to which I am not a member. I wasn't convinced about Holmes potential in 1977. Holmes had been on my radar since the early 1970s. I knew of his stoppage defeat to hard hitting Nick Wells as an amateur, and watched Duane Bobick knock the hell out of him at the 1972 Olympic trials final. As of 1976-77 after turning pro in 1973, Holmes was looking unimpressive beating journeymen Joe Gholoston and Fred Askew. He scored a big decision win over Roy "Tiger" Williams in early 1976, but was shook pretty good in the process. As late as September of 1977, Holmes looked so-so beating Fred Houpe, who former heavyweight champ Joe Louis owned a piece of. At the time I was starting to believe Holmes couldn't punch, wasn't that tough, and was a cheap Muhammad Ali wannabe. By late 1977, I was convinced Holmes only claim to fame was bettering Ali in the gym when they worked together. Which meant nothing to me. Since Ali was the worst gym fighter in the world, and sometimes lost the decision sparring Jimmy Ellis in the sixties.

On Saturday afternoon March 25th 1978, it all changed. That was the day Holmes fought fifth ranked Earnie Shavers, who he once worked as a sparring partner for. Shavers, in his last fight six months earlier, shook Muhammad Ali a few times over 15-rounds en-route to losing a unanimous decision, failing to capture the Undisputed Heavyweight title. The fight with Shavers would provide the ultimate lie-detector test as to just how good Holmes was or could be in my opinion. When the fight concluded, I had my answer regarding what I thought of Holmes. And that was not only is he a future heavyweight champ, but he's the next.

For 12-rounds Holmes put on a boxing clinic and won 34 of 36 minutes versus Shavers. Shavers, who had dynamite in both hands, was reduced to looking to land a lottery punch by the end of the fifth round. Holmes jab looked better than I'd ever seen it. He threw them in multiples, and they were hard and fast. And when Shavers was there for the taking, Holmes cut loose with his right cross with laser accuracy, disrupting Shavers aggression more so than Ali had six months earlier. Larry's legs enabled him to dictate the pace and geography of the fight, and he even looked a little like Cassius Clay circa 1964. Holmes showed the hunger and desire you look for in a championship caliber fighter. He never let up, and to this day the only fight I think he fought more purposeful during, was his title defense against Gerry Cooney four and a half years later. Three months after beating Shavers, Holmes won a split decision over Ken Norton to capture the WBC heavyweight title. Something I had no doubt he'd do, but only after I saw his official arrival on March 25, 1978 during his first fight with Earnie Shavers. Thirty years after Holmes beat Shavers, I consider him one of the five greatest heavyweights of all time.

In 2005, I ranked Larry Holmes number four on my IBRO heavyweight ballot.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Floyd Mayweather: A Big No Show

Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Antonio Margarito, Carlos Quintana, Paul Williams and Joshua Clottey, round out the top eight fighters in boxings welterweight division. The current welterweight division is very competitive. It's not the deepest its been, but it's plenty deep. Mayweather, the fighter who is considered the best in the division, is also considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing. He's also the only fighter among the top eight who hasn't faced one of the other seven who make up the elite eight. On April 12th, Margarito and Cintron will be facing each other for the second time, due to Margarito handing Cintron his only professional loss three years ago.

This coming Saturday night, boxings supposed best pound-for-pound fighter will take on a 7'1" 400 pound wrestler named the "Big Show" at the WWE's Wrestlemania XXIV. Obviously, this is for a lot of money along with the outcome being pre-determined. This would almost be tolerable if after Mayweather gets his acting check, he'd go back to what he is paid most for doing and take on the fighters who not only have earned their shot at him, but are also most capable of beating him. But this won't happen. Mayweather's already penciled in to fight a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya in the fall. De La Hoya is far past his prime, he doesn't match up with Mayweather at this time and regardless of who wins the fight, it says nothing about either one as to what kind of fighters they are.

Floyd Mayweather is following the Roy Jones path to wealth, which is that of least resistance. As long as he knows that, he's Okay. However, after all these years of talking shit about how great he is, he'll be more remembered like Jones than he will be Sugar Ray Leonard. It's even possible that Mayweather will retire undefeated. And even at that, he'd still have one of the thinnest resumes I've seen compared to the greats he thinks he is on par with. Floyd Mayweather is a borderline great fighter. Physically, there's nothing he does great. In the ring, he's smart, and his defense is thought to be very good, but in my opinion it's more fundamental than anything else. IF he fought and took more chances trying to prove how great he is, he'd get hit much more than he does.

The sand is almost through the hour glass and time is running out for Floyd to prove that he's one of the greats. No more De La hoya's, Hatton's, or Wrestlers. Is it asking too much of Floyd Mayweather to clean out one division in which he competed in before he moves on to what he does best, which is manage fighters?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Three Adjustments I'd Love

Admittedly these things won't change the world that much, but they'd all make my life a little more pleasant. I'm betting they'd make yours better too.

1.) If a fighter comes to the ring wearing a stupid mask or headpiece and he gets knocked out in his fight, he should apologize publicly for the fashion statement and agree never to wear the offending outfit again.

2.) If Max Kellerman persists in referring to professional prizefighters as "superheros," "action figures," and "gladiators," he should be forced to wear shorts, a clean tee shirt with a teddy bear on it, and a beanie cap with a working propeller instead of getting to wear Daddy's clothes. Obviously Kellerman is a boy, not a grown man. He may as well begin dressing like one.

3.) It's time to get rid of Michael Buffer. We've endured decades of hearing this silly peacock's endless trademark phrase. That was intolerable. But he's recently added an intro to his intro: "Now it's time for the most famous phrase in boxing history." That's like Elton John or Billy Joel or Yanni starting their fucking concerts by saying, "Now it's time to hear the greatest pianist the world has ever known." The statement is not only untrue, it's also something deeply unseemly. The motherfucker is an announcer, for god's sake.