Mark Holmes “Living in the Shadow” But Good Enough on His Own!
By: Ken Hissner
Too many times when a boxer has an older brother or even a father like “Smokin Joe” and Marvis Frazier the one who “Lives in the Shadow” could be good enough to make it on their own. That was the career Mark Holmes had following in his brother Larry’s shadow, who was the world heavyweight champion! Mark finished with a 38-1 record with 17 knockouts.
Mark Holmes did well in the amateurs winning the 1977 PA Golden Gloves at #147 and turned professional in July of 1980 when the USA was boycotted by then President Carter. Between July and November Holmes won all of his 5 fights. He made his debut in Bloomington, MN, when his brother defended his WBC against Scott Le Doux. In Mark’s sixth fight he defeated Randy Rivers, 5-1-2 on the undercard of Holmes and Ali.
In Mark’s sixth fight came the future IBF light middleweight champion Buster Drayton, 8-1-1, of Philadelphia in Atlantic City, NJ, with Holmes taking a decision win. “I thought it should have been a draw,” said Drayton. In his ninth fight he knocked out Kenny Hodges, 5-1-2, on the Holmes and Berbick card.
In 1981 Holmes went 11-0 in such places as Las Vegas, Scranton, Atlantic City, Cleveland and Detroit. He was offered a chance in May of that year by this writer to appear in an exhibition because I knew I couldn’t afford to pay him what he was making he said “I’d love to. I haven’t fought in Easton yet.” This was on the show I was promoting at Easton H.S. with 10% of the profits going to St. Anthony’s where both Larry and Mark boxed as amateurs. Being told by Mark I’d have to get permission from his manager, Larry I did just that. I was told by Larry “I ain’t putting my brother on some rinky dink show!” Shame because it would take 6 years and the “last fight” of his career in August of 1987 for him to appear for the first and only time in Easton.
Though Mark fought 9 times in Pennsylvania it was only once in Easton. He fought in Scranton 4 times, Bethlehem 3, Allentown 1 and Easton 1. His brother fought in Scranton 8 time of which 5 were at the start of his career. Mark fought in Nevada 15 times. He fought on the undercard of 8 times.
In Mark’s twentieth fight in the main event he stopped Mike Baker, 42-16-1, in Las Vegas. Less than 3 weeks later he fought on the undercard of Holmes and Cooney defeating William Page. In July of 1982 he had a second fight with Fred Reed whom he had decisioned 11 months previously knocking him out in Madison Square Garden it being his only time he fought in New York.
In November of 1983 Mark stopped Henry Walker, 19-22-1, on the undercard of Holmes and Frazier and I don’t mean “Smokin” Joe. His brother may have counted that as a title defense but Marvis was 10-0 and not rated against the 44-0 champion.
In 1984 Mark only fought 3 times but in 2 of them he stopped rick Noggle, 15-5, in Canton, OH, and defeated Odell Hadley, 13-3-1, on the undercard of Holmes and Bonecrusher Smith. In March of 1985 he defeated Cecil Pettigrew, 20-7-1, on the Holmes and David Bey undercard.
In August of 1985 Mark had his biggest fight against USBA middleweight champion John Collins, 32-1-1, with 28 knockouts while Mark was 32-0. It was held in Scranton, over NBC Sportsworld. Collins had defeated former champion Oscar “Shotgun” Albarado, 57-11-1, Bill Bradley, 16-1, Teddy Mann, 26-9, Lenny LaPaglia, 19-0, Ken Whetstone, 22-1 and two fights prior to meeting Mark he drew with contender Alex Ramos, 21-2-1. So Collins came in with a very good resume. He was taller and had the reach on Mark.
In the corner for Collins was well known trainer Carmen Graziano and the best cut-man in the business Philly’s Eddie Aliano. In the corner of Holmes was his trainer and his brother Floyd, along with another great cut-man from Philly in Milt Bailey. In the first round Collins came across the ring throwing a right hand trying to catch Mark right away. Collins was throwing the harder punches while Mark used his jab well and landing a solid right to the right cheek of Collins with about 15 seconds to go in the first round causing an abrasion under his right eye.
In the second round Collins came out more aggressively landing a hard right to the jaw over the jab of Mark and down he went. It was doubtful he ever regained himself after that first knockdown. Collins would go right after Mark landing 4 punches and throwing Mark to the canvas that referee Frank Cappuccino ruled a slip. Collins was right on him landing a two-punch combination and a right on the way down of Mark. Cappuccino immediately and wisely waved the fight off at 2:05 of the second round.
Collins was asked by Ferdie Pacheco if Collins thought the first knockdown punch would land that cleanly? No I didn’t think it would land that cleanly but I am glad it did. He had a good jab. He was quick you know,” said Collins. Pacheco asked why he was standing right in front of a puncher, “my jab was working good in the second round but I just got caught. I feel I will go back to the gym and work harder,” said Mark. His brother said “I know he’s a better boxer than Collins but he has to be more disciplined.
Mark would return 13 months later at Stabler Arena in Bethlehem defeating Doug Mallett, 9-2. A month later back at Stabler he stopped Brian Porreca, 6-1. Several month later he defeated Philly’s Ernest Jackson, 13-7-1 the end of 1986. He would win his last 3 fights over 3 months starting in Jacksonville, and Ft. Myers, FL, before having his final fight in Easton defeating Jerome Kelly, 8-4-3. Mark was 28 years of age upon retiring from the ring.
This writer will be nominating Mark for the PA BHOF with inductees being known in February of 2017.