Perhaps he’s trying to rival James “My Lights Are Out” Toney in the delusional sweepstakes, but former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, now 63, claims he could train for six months and come back to destroy the current world champion Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali.
Aside from being another example of the lack of respect the K-Bros get from the American boxing fraternity, it’s ironic that one of America’s least-liked and least-respected (at least when he was fighting) heavyweight champions would pick on the Klitschko brothers, who have so much trouble with certain elements of the American media.
You’d think that Holmes might empathize with the K-Bros plight, but apparently not. And the Klitchkos have the excuse of being from the former “Evil Empire,” fighting against negative stereotypes of “Russian” (the brothers are actually Ukrainian) fighters from movies like Rocky IV.
Holmes had to deal with NOT being Muhammad Ali, and with the fact that, like the Klitschkos, he lacked great competition and often had to be content with beating up past-it fighters like Ali was when they tangled and journeyman types like Randall “Tex” Cobb. He just couldn’t make America love him like it did Ali.
But frankly, African-American heavyweights in general have not shown the Klitschkos a great deal of respect during their reign, viewing them as interlopers in a field that was almost exclusively black dominated since Rocky Marciano hanged up his gloves.
Some even pretend the Klitschkos don’t exist: Kevin Johnson, an African-American heavyweight who already lost big to Vitali Klitschko, even recently said the “heavyweight champion is ALWAYS an American” right before getting easily beaten by Anglo-Irishman Tyson Fury. So it’s no big surprise to see Holmes showing such disdain for the brothers.
“Today, those guys don’t know how to fight,” Holmes opines in Boxing News Online.
“You give me a good six months and I’ll beat the Klitschko brothers. They’re strong but they’re not going to hit me with the stupid shit they do. They hit all these guys with all this stupid shit but they’re not going to be able to hit me with it because I’m not going to be there to let them hit me with it. Even at my age, I would give those guys the fight of their life.”
Quite frankly, Larry, even in your prime it would be a close-call between you and Wlad, and prime Vitali likely takes you apart even at your peak. Today, well, you’d be lucky to escape alive, but of course, neither of the classy brothers would fight you anyway, and you know it.
Holmes did possess one of the great jabs in heavyweight history, but it is equaled by the brute power of the Dr. Steelhammer’s sledgehammer jab today. And with Vitali’s overall toughness, size and strength, it’s hard to see Holmes doing much but ultimately getting beat up by him.
It’s doubtful that Holmes has even paid much attention to the Klitschko brothers, as he makes the same mistake many others make by talking as if they are the same fighter and approach boxing in the same way. They don’t. So Holmes would have to adjust his strategies for each brother, but he doesn’t seem aware of that. They just do “stupid shit,” he says, but doesn’t tell us what he is actually referring to.
At any rate, we’ve heard it all before from fighters of various colors and nationalities just before they got their butts kicked by one of the Klitschkos.
Maybe Holmes just considers the Klitschko brothers as versions of Gerry Cooney, the unfortunate American fighter who carried the “Great White Hope” tag into the ring against Holmes and lost. But Cooney was not nearly the physical specimen the brothers are, and dissipated his talent with booze and dope, while the Klitschko brothers both have a Spartan mentality.
With the rise of Klitschko era, the “Great White Hope” idea has been over for nigh on a decade. Now, with giants like the Brits Tyson Fury and David Price waiting in the wings, it looks as if it may be some time before we see another African-American champion.
And it certainly ain’t gonna be Larry Holmes.
–Johnny “Gutter” Walker