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Did Holmes duck Foreman or did Foreman duck Holmes
Last month I wrote how the overwhelming accomplishments and persona of Muhammad Ali overshadow both Foreman and Holmes. Maybe, in the case of Holmes, Foreman also cast a shadow over him as well. It's quite obvious Holmes is obsessed with trying to prove to the public that he could have, and is still capable of, defeating Foreman. On top of that he continues to try and perpetuate the myth about how Foreman ducked him while both were active during the ‘70s. This, however, is not true, and I'm definitely not a Foreman apologist. Nothing more than a simple examination of their careers starting in June of 1969 through March of 1977 is required, along with a few other things that have been forgotten over the years to squash the myth Holmes is trying to rewrite as history. What becomes evident is that the window of opportunity to make Foreman-Holmes was very short-lived. The reality is: during the only six months the fight could have been realized,the obstacles came from the Holmes camp
It was shortly after Foreman stopped Frazier in of 1976 that Dick Saddler started accusing Ali of ducking Foreman and fighting wrestlers like Antonio Inoki. Saddler also said that he would like Foreman to fight the Ali wannabe, Larry Holmes, if they can't get the real thing. Saddler said Holmes, who at the time was 22-0 (16), would be a perfect opponent to help Foreman get ready for a rematch with Ali. However, Foreman-Holmes wasn't a draw at the time and there were a few obstacles pertaining to Holmes that quashed the fight.
The first was that Holmes’ trainer at the time, Richie Giachetti, wanted no part of matching his fighter with Foreman. In August 1976, Foreman stopped Scott LeDoux on CBS in a bout that was called by Jerry Quarry and Tom Brookshier. Quarry passed along to Brookshier that he spoke to Giachetti a couple days before Foreman fought LeDoux and asked him what he thought about shutting up Saddler and matching Holmes with Foreman. According to Brookshier, Quarry said Giachetti told him "There's no way I'm putting Larry in there with that Friggin’ Animal Foreman."
On top of that, Holmes had no following at all and only those who were involved in boxing thought he had potential to one day win the title. And King was also very frustrated by Holmes not making much of an impression with the networks and fans. He could see Holmes being stopped in a high profile bout. That is why he held his own heavyweight box-off called the U.S. Tournament, which turned out to be a total farce.
Talk of a Foreman-Holmes bout ceased by the end of 1976. It was obvious that Don King thought the fight was not a good one to make. He was frustrated because the fighters he felt comfortable risking Holmes against were fighters nobody cared about and brought him no attention. And he believed the fighters who could bring him notoriety were too risky for Holmes.
Foreman would have been a huge favorite over Holmes and was too dangerous. The Holmes of mid-1978 had his hands full with Norton. In 1976 Norton was better than he was in 1978 and would have been able to wear down the 1976 Holmes. That left Jimmy Young and Ali. In 1976 there were too many big fights out there to warrant Ali fighting Holmes, not to mention that Holmes wasn't ready. And King wasn't foolish enough to risk Holmes against Jimmy Young, who was great at making his opponents look bad and beating fighters who were supposed to beat him.
Holmes fought twice more in 1977, stopping Fred Houpe and Ibar Arrington to finish the year with a record of 26-0 (19). It wasn't until March 25, 1978, one year after Foreman lost to Young, that Holmes showed he had the pedigree of a future heavyweight champ. It wasn't until his 27th fight, against perennial heavyweight contender Earnie Shavers, that Holmes had finally arrived. Shavers was seven months removed from losing a 15-round unanimous decision to Muhammad Ali in what was his first of two title shots. In his bout against Shavers, Holmes won all twelve rounds and never looked better or more complete. Three months later Holmes won a 15-round split decision over Ken Norton to win the WBC heavyweight title. And the rest is fistic history.
The fact is there was only about a six-month window during 1976 that a Foreman-Holmes bout could realistically be made. From June through December of 1976 there was some talk of matching them. I believe Holmes was willing and would have agreed to the fight, but at the same time I have no doubt Foreman would have jumped at the opportunity had it been offered. But Holmes showed nothing through December of 1976 indicating he had the potential to be a special fighter, let alone the great one he went on to become.
The reason Foreman-Holmes never happened is because at the time when it could have been made, Holmes management and promoter Don King wanted no part of Foreman. They just weren't confident Holmes at that time could have stood up to Foreman long enough for him to tire. And guess what? Nobody else thought so either. Holmes was still two years away from blossoming into a special heavyweight fighter.
If you need a goat to blame for never seeing Foreman-Holmes, blame Holmes’ management and Don King for doing the right thing by Holmes, because Larry Holmes was nowhere close to being ready for George Foreman in 1976, despite Clancy messing Foreman up. You can also blame Jimmy Young. In fact, you can also blame Young for being the reason why we never saw Ali-Foreman II. Had Foreman defeated Young, we would have seen him fight Ali in September of 1977, instead of Ali fighting Shavers.
Today Larry Holmes is campaigning to fight George Foreman. His selling point is that Foreman ducked him in the ‘70s and is ducking him now. That statement is only half true. It was Holmes and his management who looked the other way when Foreman and Saddler viewed the fight as a tune-up for a rematch with Ali. So the blame is on the Holmes faction as to why it didn't happen over 25 years ago.
Today, however, I believe Foreman has no interest in fighting Holmes for a few significant reasons. First of all, he knows beating Holmes does nothing for him at this stage of the game - which is the opposite for Holmes. Holmes beating Foreman somewhat justifies him as the number two heavyweight of the Golden Era.
Holmes knows that he cannot overtake Ali in the pantheon of all-time heavyweight greats. That leaves Frazier and Foreman.
In a head to head matchup between Frazier and Holmes at their peak, most observers are split on who would have won. Holmes is usually ranked above Frazier because of the 20 consecutive title defenses he made over his seven year reign as champ. That leaves Foreman. Because of the power Foreman still possessed during his comeback, which resulted in some impressive knockouts, not to mention that he won the title from the lineal champ and Holmes didn't, Foreman's comeback is viewed as being more successful than Holmes’ was. That’s why Holmes wants the Foreman name on his record. He believes since Foreman is only 11 months older than he is, beating him now means he would have beat him when both were at their peak.
The other reason Foreman has no interest in fighting Holmes, besides there not being an upside regarding career stature, is there isn't enough money in it. One thing Foreman and Holmes both crave is dead Presidents, but in that tale of the tape, Foreman is the champ and money is his passion, even more than it is for Holmes. No way is Foreman going to give Holmes the chance to gain career stature without getting paid for it. Added to that, Holmes has the strategic style advantage. No way Foreman goes for it unless the money is so monumental that even he can't walk away from it.
Who would have won had they fought at their best? The best Foreman was the one who fought from late 1972 through October 1974 when he lost to Ali. The best Holmes fought during the years 1979-82. In my opinion, the undefeated Foreman of ‘73-‘74 would have beaten the undefeated Holmes of ‘80-‘82. I don't believe Holmes could have survived the Foreman that Muhammad Ali survived.
Remember, Ali didn't beat Foreman by boxing him, and I don't think Holmes could have either. Ali had to endure a helluva beating to the head and body before he could take advantage of a spent George Foreman. After losing to Ali, Foreman doubted his stamina and was finished emotionally. This led to the measured style he fought under the tutelage of Gil Clancy. And that's why he lost to Jimmy Young. Had the Zaire version of Foreman fought Young, Foreman would have won inside three rounds.
So from my perspective, the very best Foreman I ever saw would have defeated the very best Holmes I ever saw. However, I think the post-Ali version of Foreman would have been decisioned by Holmes. I know that both are among the top six or seven greatest heavyweight champions of all-time. That being said, George Foreman of 2005, who has not fought in almost eight years, has no interest in fighting Larry Holmes of 2005 who last fought in 2002.