Heavyweight boxing has returned to its status as the sport’s glamour division for the first time in over two decades, but if you ask Hall of Fame fighter Larry Holmes, it still doesn’t pass the smell test.
In fact, Holmes declared that the current crop of heavyweights couldn’t even have a fighting chance during his heyday.
“They couldn’t stand a chance when I was fighting. When I was fighting … [it’s] no contest,” Holmes told YouTube channel Pro Boxing Fans. “We’d beat these guys up. They don’t have the abilities that we have, but they would’ve given us a pretty good fight. But, when you got guys like Kenny Norton, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Ron Lyle, Larry Holmes, we got a lot of good fighters out there when I was fighting.”
The multiple-time heavyweight champion Holmes (69-6, 44 KOs) competed from 1973 to 2002. His career was highlighted with wins over Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers (twice), Trevor Berbick, Leon Spinks, Gerry Cooney and Ray Mercer, as well as losses to Michael Spinks (twice), Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
Today’s pool of top-tier big boys include Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk, Dillian Whyte, Andy Ruiz Jr., Joseph Parker, Luis Ortiz, Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev, Oscar Rivas and Michael Hunter.
When asked how he’d fare against the group, Holmes quipped, “Well, I’m 70 years old, so… yeah, well this isn’t my time, you wouldn’t hear of these guys.”
The Easton Assassin got his break into boxing when he started serving as Ali and Joe Frazier’s sparring partner. Holmes also shed light on those days as well.
“Yeah, well you want to learn how to fight, you got to start with the best. So I asked Ali to give me a job as his sparring partner, and he said to me, ‘Can you take it?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I can take it,’” said Holmes. “So he gave me a job to test me out for a couple of weeks, and then I was okay for him … and that was it, and then next thing you know, I had a job and same thing with Joe Frazier. The word was out that I was a good boxer, and I worked with Ali and then Joe Frazier.
“My intention was not to be a good sparring partner. My intention was to make some money, and box with the best fighters, and learn from them as I can. And that’s what I did.
“It felt good boxing Ali because I knew what he could do. I knew because I sparred with him, I knew what he could do. His jab was like my jab, his jab was fast, my jab was a little bit faster … But I just learned everything I can learn from Muhammad Ali, I stayed at his camp. I ate there, he took care of me and that was okay.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.