EASTON, Pa. - FOX 29 is going a round with the "Easton Assassin" as a part of Black History Month celebration. Former Heavyweight champion boxer Larry Holmes is, without a doubt, living history.
He is one of only a few professional fighters to beat Muhammad Ali. But despite his many achievements, there were challenges.
If Larry Holmes sends an invitation to spend time? Go. The pictures, championship belts, the stories.
The longtime Heavyweight Champion of the World is relaxed now, but says none of that came easy.
"A lot of people didn’t pay me no mind. A lot of people didn’t recognize me until I won the championship. And, then, until I defended my title and then, until I had it one year, two years – then they started recognizing me," Larry Holmes stated.
The records may be untouchable. Heavyweight champ from 1978 to 1985. 19 title defenses. Consensus best jab in heavyweight history. The Easton Assassin remains the only fighter to knock out Muhammad Ali, his sparring partner for years. He says they made each other better.
"He didn’t keep me around because he wanted to get his butt kicked. He kept me around because I made him do what he didn’t want to do. I made him fight," Holmes explained.
In what can be a flamboyant sport, Holmes was disciplined, quiet. He ate right, trained hard, went home at night.
"And you know the greatest part about it? We worked with a guy that has never been in the tabloids. You never heard anything bad about Larry Holmes," Cliff Ransom said.
Cliff Ransom grew up with Larry and was in his corner every night, including the legendary donnybrook with "Gentleman" Gerry Cooney, a fighter who’d been assigned the "Great White Hope" label with the attached racial undertones. And, there was a lot. The Holmes camp had always felt at home at Caesars Palace.
"They loved him out there. Everything was red and white, because those were his colors. But, when Cooney came? It became green and white," Ransom added.
And, someone was believed to be tinkering with the champ’s camp food.
"Don King ordered a gourmet chef, had a gourmet chef, because they started messing with his food. So, we had to leave Caesars, had to stop eating at Caesars Palace and move over to The Dunes where Don – he moved us into a suite and had the food cooked in front of him. That’s how bad it got," explained Ransom.
Holmes was surprised. For him, it was another day at work.
"I’m trying to fight this man to make me some money, so I can go on up the ladder, period. ‘Nah, you’re a racist, you’re a racist.’ They called me a racist," Holmes stated.
"They called you a racist?" asked FOX 29’s Hank Flynn.
"They called me a racist and I said, ‘Okay, whatever you say I am, I am. But, I’m going to kick Jerry’s ass when he get in the ring!’" Holmes replied.
The slights continued. The champion is always introduced second, yet, somehow, Holmes was announced first. And, the screaming as the fighters stepped into the battle.
"It was amazing. So many people. White people rooting for Jerry Cooney. Telling him, ‘Kill him!’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna kill him.’ That’s what I said. ‘I’m gonna kill him,’" Holmes remembered.
There’d have been more money if Holmes had lost. The rematch would’ve been shaken the globe. But, Cliff says the Larry Holmes he grew up with wasn’t wired that way.
"Wouldn’t do it. So, for somebody to say lay down and we’ll have another one? Nah. No. Hell no," said
Holmes had a good childhood growing up in Easton. Not a wealthy one, but the lumps, bumps and hurdles overcome at every step of the way define him and he’s grateful.
"That’s the way it goes, because, you know what? That’s what made me a champion. Because this town is so small and people are so negative and you have a whole lot to fight for. And, that’s my dignity and my respect. That’s what I fought for," Holmes remarked.
For the latest local news, sports and weather, download the FOX 29 News app.
DOWNLOAD: FOX 29 NEWS APP