The Day I Saw Holmes Arrive
Many boxing observers have conveyed to me over the years that they knew by 1976-77, that
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 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 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 number four on my IBRO heavyweight ballot. 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 owned a piece of. At the time I was starting to believe Holmes couldn't punch, wasn't that tough, and was a cheap 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.