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Boxing: Heavyweight division and sins of Holmes

By Kunle Awosiyan

Despite his quality and wins, it took Larry Holmes years to gain the respect of boxing fans. His first sin was that he beat the most loved boxer and his mentor, Muhammad Ali.

He did so after Ali had passed his prime and started showing signs of Parkinson’s disease. He shouldn’t have fought Ali, some fans reasoned.

His second sin was that he mimicked Ali afterward but lacked the gift of the gab to complement the style. To boxing fans, Holmes was Ali’s shadow and shouldn’t enjoy the same accolades.

However, Holmes proved the boxing world wrong by becoming one of the greatest boxers ever, inside and outside the ring. He is doing well as a businessman today unlike many of his class.

It was not until 1984 that he finally broke the yoke of hatred when he beat James Smith, the bone crusher, via technical knockout. What the world thought was going to be a mismatch turned out to be one of the grades A matches of that era. The doctor had to stop the match after Holmes had badly cut Smith’s eye.

Holmes’ jabs inflicted so much pain on Smith that his corners asked him to go for Holmes’ body instead of targeting the head. Holmes was masterful. Fans who wanted him to lose became his friends on that day.

On his way to boxing great, Holmes defied the politics of the game. He found out earlier that he must beat and beat his opponents convincingly.

He beat younger, talented Ray Mercer, he beat an older Ken Norton, he couldn’t beat Leon Spinks, yet he thought he was robbed twice.

Holmes was dangerous and flexible, slow yet aggressive for his six years as champion. But all his tactics failed him when Mike Tyson entered the ring with him. This time, he did not lose on his feet, he pulled up the canvas.

It was a day his sins were finally forgiven because Ali was by the ringside as Tyson avenged him of his loss to Holmes. It is 34 years ago.

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