Thoughts on Larry Holmes's 57th Birthday
On November 6th 1981, I went to the Pittsburgh Civic arena to see the heavyweight elimination bout between Randall "Tex" Cobb and hard-punching Columbian heavyweight Bernardo Mercado. The Cobb-Mercado bout was part of the undercard to the Larry Holmes-Renaldo Snipes WBC heavyweight title bout.
A few of Randall's friends along with a couple fighters from the gym took a bus from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Cobb-Mercado was a great fight. Having seen most of Cobb's bouts, I don't think he ever looked better. He looked like a professional heavyweight contender that night. Had Cobb been blessed with a bigger punch, he would've stopped Mercado. Both fighters had their moments, but I kept thinking how Mercado must be getting discouraged, because in spite of nailing Cobb flush with some massive right hands, Cobb just kept coming at him. The fight went the 10 round distance and Cobb won a hard fought and well deserved unanimous decision.
In November 1981, Larry Holmes was undefeated (38-0) and in the middle of his prime. Since winning the title from Ken Norton in June 1978, Holmes had made 10 successful defenses and was looking to make Snipes number 11. Snipes earned his shot at the title by winning a 10 round split decision over former WBA heavyweight title holder Gerrie Coetzee in his last fight, leaving him undefeated in 22 bouts.
The Holmes-Snipes bout was scheduled for 15 rounds. Once the fight started, Holmes was in control and looked as if he'd only need about five rounds to secure a win. For some reason I started watching the fight through a pair of binoculars in the seventh round. I was focused on Snipes's hands, and I literally followed his right when he dropped Holmes as he was releasing it. Holmes stumbled into the ring post as he was getting up. He looked to be on the verge of losing the title just as he did two years earlier when Earnie Shavers dropped him with a big right hand in the seventh round of their rematch.
Once again, Holmes showed one of the reasons why he's considered among the greatest of the greats. Snipes found out, as did Shavers, that maybe it's best not to make Holmes think you might beat him. Showing tremendous heart and reserve, Holmes resumed control of the fight in the eighth round. In the 11th round, Holmes was pot-shooting Snipes at will and the fight was stopped.
Today, Renaldo Snipes and Earnie Shavers are part of the Holmes legacy. Both hurt him badly and sat him on his rear end in the seventh round during their title bouts. But they couldn't hold him off and were stopped in the 11th round. They also can claim they were the heavyweight champion of the world for eight seconds.
As I left the arena after the fight, I was consumed with two thoughts. I thought Larry Holmes was a special fighter, but didn't think he'd be remembered as an all-time great. And I flirted with the idea that if Snipes can come within two seconds of stopping him, Gerry Cooney might put him on disability if he catches him clean. However, those thoughts only lasted a day or two. By the night he fought Cooney, I didn't have a morsel of doubt he would beat him.
It's been almost 25 years since Holmes-Snipes and there are no questions unanswered pertaining to Holmes greatness. In fact, I happen to be the best witness against what I doubted about him in 1981. As a member of International Boxing Research Organization, I rated Larry Holmes the fourth greatest heavyweight champion in boxing history.
Larry Holmes may not be in a class all by himself, but whatever one he's in, it won't take long to call roll. . I could state why and fill up 10 blogs, but I'll leave that for my colleagues on this one. I'll just end with this: Muhammad Ali was right, "Larry Holmes was a BAD MAN!"