By Lyle Fitzsimmons
He was a world-class fighter from Easton, Pa.
But no, not that one.
Still, while it’s true Mark Holmes never achieved the success, acclaim or bankroll of his heavyweight champion older brother the now-59-year-old is hardly bitter about boxing. In fact, he’s diving headlong back into the business end more than three decades since the last time he laced up the gloves.
The less-celebrated Holmes will wear his full-fledged promoter hat in a late-summer spotlight in Atlanta, where’s he’s set to put together a show featuring eight pro bouts and a sprinkling of amateur talent – billed the “Underground Showdown” – on Sept. 15 at the Buckhead Fight Club.
The venue is a nearly 15,000-square-foot fitness center that’s long been run by former women’s minimumweight world champion Terri Moss, whose annual Corporate Fight Night events have been pitting tax attorneys, chefs and limousine drivers against each other in charity ring shows since 2010.
And if you think Holmes isn’t just as revved-up as he was when he fought, think again.
“As a fighter you experience the anticipation waiting in the dressing room, then waiting for the bell to ring,” he said. “It's going to be the same, waiting to see how the show goes. As a promoter you want to go out there and put on a good show, and have people come back to see the next ones.”
Holmes has worked his way through the behind-the-scenes ranks, handling the bulk of the details while co-promoting a past show in Atlanta with Adrian Patrick. He’s trying to develop a following by getting his name out in the many gyms across the city and aims to put on shows every three or four months to keep the fighters in those gyms active.
All while putting together his own Holmes Entertainment team, which means picking a matchmaker, ring announcers and complementary staff. He’s working this show with people recommended to him by colleagues, and will strive for the aforementioned schedule once the organization is set.
“The closer it gets, the more running around there is,” he said. “All the details, approving everything, getting good matches. Making sure everything works out well so I can continue to keep promoting shows. Lots of phone calls. And meetings. Making sure advertising, fliers, tickets, everything, a lot of details, are taken care of. It's very busy.”
His first dalliance with the sport was pretty successful in its own right.
Then just 21, Holmes debuted as a middleweight on a Bloomington, Minn. card in 1980 that featured a pair of championship fights – including his brother’s TKO of Scott LeDoux – as well as the 10th pro outing of future two-division world champion Edwin Rosario.
He beat future 154-pound champ Buster Drayton in his sixth fight, fought in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Orleans and Detroit by the time he’d reached 11-0, and reached 21-0 with a defeat of William Page on the night his sibling stopped Gerry Cooney in one of the heavyweight division’s most lucrative bouts.
“(It was) inspiration,” he said. “I was able to fight on top cards starting out, making a little more than most fighters. I always looked up to Larry and wanted do my best on his cards. I never lost on one of his cards. It's a plus having Larry as a brother.”
Holmes had stretched his mark to 32-0 with 15 KOs when he encountered the only man to beat him, Chicago-based slugger John Collins, who scored a pair of knockdowns on the way to a sudden second-round stoppage on an NBC SportsWorld broadcast with Marv Albert and Ferdie Pacheco in August 1985.
Brother Larry was at ringside, and suffered his own first defeat a month later against Michael Spinks.
Mark returned 13 months after the Collins fight and won six more before finishing at 38-1 in 1987.
“(There was) no real low point, really. Just the one loss, to John Collins,” Holmes said. “I remember it the most, and wondered what I could have done different. When I went out to fight, I fought stiff, got hit with an overhand right and got dropped. My record was 38-1, and I did beat someone who did go on to become the champ. I really didn't have any low points.”
The brothers got together for Mark’s entrance into the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame three months ago in Philadelphia, but the new inductee said it’s unlikely they’ll spend a lot of time obsessing over the state of the sport these days. In fact, he said much of his own time is spent heading back and forth to the park with his 11 grandchildren – when he’s not traveling back and forth between Georgia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
“I still watch boxing but don't rush home to see the small ones. As for big fights, maybe the must-see – it's the two heavyweights – Wilder and Joshua, but it looks like they're dodging each other,” Holmes said. “I work with a few fighters and am getting a gym open, remodeling a building I purchased to get that going.”
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
IBF junior featherweight title – Tokyo, Japan
Ryosuke Iwasa (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. TJ Doheny (No. 1 IBF/No. 24 IWBR)
Iwasa (25-2, 16 KO): Second title defense; One loss in 22 fights at Korakuen Hall (21-1, 14 KO)
Doheny (19-0, 14 KO): First title defense; Third fight outside of Australia (3-0, 3 KO)
Fitzbitz says: The Japanese champ has had good recent success on his home turf – winning six in a row – and seems to be improving since he’s become a world belt-holder. Iwasa in 9 (80/20)
WBC flyweight title – Belfast, Northern Ireland
Cristofer Rosales (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Paddy Barnes (No. 14 WBC/No. 50 IWBR)
Rosales (27-3, 18 KO): First title defense; Two of three career losses away from Nicaragua (2-2, 2 KO)
Barnes (5-0, 1 KO): First title fight; First fight scheduled for more than 10 rounds
Fitzbitz says: The lighter weight classes seem to be a breeding ground for early-career world champions, and Barnes has a prime chance to get it done here. I can’t sign off, though. Rosales by decision (52/48)
IBO super featherweight title – Ekaterinburg, Russia
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (champion/No. 13 IWBR) vs. Robinson Castellanos (unranked IBO/No. 9 IWBR)
Rakhimov (12-0, 9 KO): Second title defense; Two of 12 fights have gone beyond six rounds
Castellanos (24-13, 14 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Will fight in his fourth country
Fitzbitz says: Independent rankings suggest the veteran challenger has the edge, but it says here that the Russia-base champ will be the next IBO gate-crasher in his class. Rakhimov in 10 (80/20)
Last week's picks: None.
2018 picks record: 54-24 (69.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 975-328 (74.8 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.