Former lineal heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, an all-time great of the division, came out fighting when asked what he thinks about today’s kings – and how they compare with the greats of his era including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.
He told Boxing Social: ‘They couldn’t fight me. I’d have kicked their ass. I’d have knocked them out. Come on. They can’t take a punch… they’re amateurs. To me? ‘They’re amateurs. To Ali? They’re amateurs. To Ken Norton? They’re amateurs. To Joe Frazier? They’re amateurs. To us, they’re kids. They can’t fight. ‘They didn’t learn how to fight. We learned how to fight.’
Holmes eventually retired with a 69-6 professional record after a glorious career which included defending his world title against 19 fighters – a streak which even now ranks second only to the legendary Joe Louis (25).
And ‘The Easton Assassin’s’ career of course included a brutal beatdown of a fading Muhammad Ali in Las Vegas in October 1980 – seen as a passing of the torch from era to era. While Holmes knew he had a job to do that night in the biggest fight of his career so far, it’s clear that almost 40 years on, there is a tinge of regret too.
He explained: “Ali was my friend, too. I wasn’t just his sparring partner. I didn’t want him to get hurt, I could see how he acted when I hit him, he was hurting. I was happy but I was not happy, because I didn’t want to beat him up like that. But I had the problem, if I beat him they’d say he was old and, if I didn’t, they’d say I never had it anyway. You do what you gotta do to become champion, and people still put you down.”