Larry Holmes on YES Networks’ Centerstage Quote Sheet
On whether or not winning the WBC Heavyweight Title in 1978 gave him increased leverage in dealing with his promoter and financial advisor, Don King:
No, he treated me just as bad. Didn’t care, you know? He wanted to make sure that I didn’t get a big head, I guess. And I wouldn’t had got a big head; I just wanted to be treated fair, I wanted the right kind of money, and I wanted to get paid like everybody else want to get paid. I mean, what you say you gonna do, that’s what I expected. And he done most of us what he said he was gonna do, but it came with a little force on my part to make him do it.
On why fighters never stood up to Don King, who raised the stakes for a typical boxing match and offered boxers huge sums of money:
He give ‘em more money. You know, if Bob Arum offer ‘em a million, (and) Don King offer ‘em two million, he is gonna go with Don King. And that’s what Don King did. Fighters was only getting 200, 300 thousand dollars (before King). Don King came, he raised the pot. Muhammad Ali was only getting two or three hundred thousand dollars. Don King came and said, “Look, I am gonna give you $5 million.” Ali said, “What?” (King said) “I am gonna give you $5 million.” (Ali said) “To fight who?” (King said) “I want you to fight George Foreman…in Africa…for $5 million.” Unheard of. Well, he was gonna give George Foreman $5 million. Bob Arum offered him $300,000. So what you do? Take the $5 million. And that’s what made Don King.
On legendary fight promoter Don King and his role as a financial advisor:
I advised myself, along with Don King. And Don was teaching me about money. And boy, I learned about money. And he gets one and two, three, four, and I get one. Don King is rich. I mean, it’s a crime this man have so much money like that—off of fighters. He made so much money…off of us fighters. Mind‑boggling. But he would teach you the game. If you don’t know the game, he will teach you. You might be broke when you finished, but he’ll teach you, and you’ll learn the game. You hear me, Don King? I am talking about you…
On Don King’s time in jail from 1967 until 1971 (King was serving jail time for manslaughter) and how King later made his money at the expense of fighters:
But he told me this. He says, “Look, when he went to jail, he did the time, but he didn’t let the time do him.” Well, he did the time. But…how he said it? “Time… Well, he did the time, but time didn’t do him.” He grabbed his books, he read, he studied. And you know, he got out of jail, and now he is a billionaire. He got a lot of money now. He stole a lot of money from the fighters.
On Earnie Shavers’ punches and their effect on Muhammad Ali’s health:
One of the reasons why Ali is shaking like that is because of Earnie Shavers. ‘Cause Earnie Shavers hit him every round. Hurt him every round. And Earnie Shavers shouldn’t hit nobody like that. But he was—bang!—wake him up with another one. And Ali was so strong, so determined, that he would not fall down. And that’s one of the reasons why he is probably having problems.
On why he didn’t want to fight an aging Muhammad Ali in 1980 in Las Vegas – a fight in which Holmes ultimately defeated Ali to successfully defend his WBC Heavyweight Title:
No, I didn’t want it, because I was put in a no‑win situation. If I win, they say, “Well, you know, Ali was old.” If I lost, they say, “Well, I told you, he never had it.” So, you know, I was in a no‑win situation, but I had to do it. And I won the fight, but I didn’t hurt Ali, and him and I remained friends. He got paid a lot of money, and I got paid some money.
On the dangers of taking punches just to prove one is “tough” in the ring, and what happened to Muhammad Ali:
I didn’t try to prove nothing. Fighters go out there and prove how tough they are, to take punches and get hit…and then later on something terrible… Muhammad Ali, he used to lay up against the rope—and they called it “rope a dope”? That rope made him dope. Because you can’t… Your body only can take so much; your head only can take so much. And Ali was getting hit with punches—believe me— that he shouldn’t have got hit with. He would live on the ropes. You hitting him his in the kidneys, you are hitting him on his head. When he has got his hands up here, your hands are hitting the head and stuff like that. And something is giving…if you keep getting no punches, something is gonna give, and that’s what happened. And I never wanted to prove how tough I was, how much I could take. I wanted to prove that I could win and not get hit.
On the role of money in his decision to fight Mike Tyson in 1988, two years after Holmes retired:
I knew that I couldn’t beat Mike Tyson. But again…Don King calls. I was off two years with my band, traveling around with Kool and the Gang, the Temptations, singing ding ding ding, you know? And drinking them Budweisers and stuff like that. And (a) knock on the door, Don King, 3:00 o’clock in the morning. “Larry, open the door.” (I replied) “Well, what are you doing, man?” (King said) “I want you to fight Mike Tyson.” (I replied) “You must be crazy. I can’t beat Mike Tyson. I ain’t did nothing for two years.” (King said) “It’s three and a half million dollars.” I said, “Well, come on in.” He said, “But you got two months to get ready for the fight.” I have two months? I said, “Man, two months?” He said, “Well, you have three and a half million.” And I said, “I can’t beat Mike Tyson in two months, man.” (King said) “Here is 500,000 cash.” I said, “OK.”
On getting knocked out in the fourth round of his 1988 fight with Mike Tyson, who successfully defended his WBC, WBA and IBF Heavyweight Titles:
He didn’t knock me out. He knocked me down and the referee stepped over and said “Don’t get up, son.” I said, “OK.”
Gerry Cooney and Race
On how Gerry Cooney faced pressure from the white community to beat Holmes in their 1982 WBC Heavyweight Title fight and how Holmes used this to his advantage:
Well, and you know what happened? I am gonna tell you. Because white people jumped on him for losing, to me. They said, “You was nothing. You ain’t nothing. You let him beat you. You did this, you let him…” And that stayed on him, it bothered him and it boggled his mind. Because he wasn’t successful in winning a fight with me. He had every white person probably in the world on his back. ‘Cause he didn’t beat me. ‘Cause they was expecting him to win… And he was the greatest thing in the world until he lost. And then when he lost, they said, “Well, he ain’t nothing. Oh man, he ain’t nothing.” Why he ain’t nothing, because he lost to a great guy like Larry Holmes. And he lost because he had all the pressure. Y’all helped me—white people helped me beat Gerry Cooney, by putting all the pressure on him. And he had the world on his back, I didn’t. You know what I mean? I didn’t care less. ‘Cause I am used to it. If I win, I win. If I lose, I lose. Just pay me. And it was all new to him. Gerry…the last four, five years, I think finally got out of that and understand that, because I have been with him, and we have been doing things together. And he’ll tell you that he didn’t want nothing to do with it. And he said it to people. (Cooney said) “I don’t want nothing to do with the racial stuff. It don’t matter if you are black or white, as long as you can fight.”
On the racial undertones of his 1982 WBC Heavyweight Title fight with Gerry Cooney, “The Great White Hope,” and racism in boxing today:
It was always racial, and it’s still racial. There is always gonna be that. And when a black fighter fights a white fighter, it’s always racial, it’s always that. They always put it there for some reason or another. Maybe ‘cause color against color, ‘cause it ain’t man against man. I mean, that’s the way it should be, but it’s not.
On his relationship with George Foreman:
Yeah, we pretend we get along. He don’t like me; I know he don’t like me. And I don’t really care. Yeah. I don’t like him, either, and I don’t care if he knows that.
On why he never faced George Foreman in the ring:
A guy put $10 million on the table for him and me…and he walked away from it. What the heck is he thinking? You fight for $2 million? You are out there. And George Foreman wouldn’t fight me for $10 million. But I want to know what’s the matter with him. And I’ll fight him now. I ain’t in no shape. And I’ll beat George.
On George Foreman’s Lean, Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine and why he doesn’t want to buy one:
No. Oh, come on. No. Now, if anybody buy that grill, gotta be crazy. Because you know, I want my hamburger juicy. You know, I want my, my chicken, my steak juicy. If you don’t want no juice on your steak, just took the grill and roll on down. You don’t need to buy that thing and you pay 100 dollars for it. “George Foreman Grill”? No. Just took the pot, just let the juice run off. I don’t want my hamburgers dry.
On George Foreman as a fighter and now pitchman for his Lean, Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine:
I am a better—and was the better fighter—than George Foreman. And he claims to be better. George Foreman got lucky, OK, because he was fighting andhe made a whole lotta money. He got broke, retired, came back. Bought him a church, said a prayer here and there. He believed that God that gave him an opportunity to do real. Now he is fooling people about that darn grill. And he made all the money. And he came back and lucked out for somebody that he knocked out, so he can become “champion” again on the other side. But you could tell that I don’t like George Foreman. But I like George, I really do, but I don’t like him.
Growing Up Poor
On how his poverty impacted his decision to go into boxing:
Some days you didn’t get nothin’ to eat. We all ate, but it was not enough for us to eat. And you know, me being a young kid at 70 and 80 pounds…and your brothers are older than you, and they wanted a little bit more, they got it…and nothing you could say to them to make them share what they have, because they would beat you up. And that’s what one of the reasons why I got into boxing, because I got tired of getting beat up by my brothers, man.
On getting into trouble as a juvenile and resisting the temptation to steal from people’s homes, despite his desperate living situation:
I was a juvenile, and so I got into some trouble and whatnot here and there. Rob an apple tree, a pear tree or something like that. Nothing really major. Never stole, stole anything—break in your house and take your stuff. Never done anything like that, but I wanted to, God, a few times to break in something and take, ‘cause I didn’t have anything. But every time I went to do it, something told me “Don’t do it,” and I never did it.
On landing a job at a car wash and shoe shine shop upon dropping out of school after the seventh grade:
I worked at a car wash. It paid a dollar an hour. It was a lot of money back then… A dollar an hour. I washed about 150 cars for a dollar an hour. It was a job. But, you know, we did it, you know? And the guy gave us our dollar an hour, took our taxes out and I just kept on rolling. Not only that, that I washed cars, I shined shoes, too. People still talk about me… “Oh Larry, I remember you when you shined shoes.” Oh yeah, but now I own the shoe shine shop.
On how he, his mother and his 11 siblings survived growing up in poverty:
I guess my Mom believes in the Lord a lot, and she did a lot of that praying and she met some people that—neighbors and stuff like that helped us out, and showed us how to get welfare and whatnot. And that’s what we did, we lived off welfare. And we went to school with holes in our shoes, pants with holes in ‘em and sometime hungry, and sometime we went to bed hungry. I mean, that’s, that’s the way it was. I mean, I thought everybody did that.
On jumping in the pool at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas after defeating Ken Norton and winning the WBC Heavyweight Title in 1978:
I tell you, the first thing I did was kept my promise. I jumped in the swimming pool with all my clothes on and everything at Caesars Palace. And I was just enjoying… Reporters and everybody…we all jumped in the water. And then went to my room. Don King was up there, waiting for me. Cursed me out. Because I had the press waiting. And I didn’t know anything about the press gonna be in my room waiting for me. And while I am down there having fun in the pool with the other guys. And he said, “You don’t do press like that. I thought, you just become champion and you gonna do this to the press?” I said, “Do what to the press? You didn’t tell me I had to come out there to deal with the press.” Well, I was out there having fun in the water and enjoy my victory… And Don King hollered at me and hollered at me and I apologized for being late and did the press conference.
On why he didn’t postpone his 1978 WBC Heavyweight Title fight with Ken Norton in Las Vegas, after pulling a ligament in his arm six days prior to the bout:
I would never get another chance. You don’t pass up on a good opportunity. And that was a good opportunity for me to become the heavyweight champion of the world and making more money than I ever made in all my life. He gave me $150,000 for that fight. That’s what I cleared.
On why he never left Easton, PA:
Well, if I had to live L.A. or New York, I would have to keep up with the Jones. Living in Easton, they gotta keep up with the Holmeses.
On how money served as an incentive for him to fight:
Everybody said I love the game. And people were told—the kids even today—“Don’t say you are gonna do it for the money or whatever. You do it because you love the sport.” I loved the sport. Of course, the sport is gonna make me money. If I can’t get paid, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want nobody punching me in my face…free. You hit me in my face, you better know how to fight, and I am gonna—and I got a chance to hit you back—I want to get paid for it.
On still having a knot in his head from Earnie Shavers’ punch 30 years ago, during a fight in 1979:
That gave me the respect that I could take a punch. And believe me, I knew Earnie Shavers could punch ‘cause I worked with him as a sparring partner. And I didn’t want to get hit with that. But the thing is, I said, “Earnie, your eye is cut and you are bleeding. Don’t take no more of this.” He said, “I want to knock you out, Larry.” I go, “OK, take this,” and I went like this and I dropped his hand—and he hit me right up here. There is a knot there, knot right at the top of my head. 30 years later and I still got that big knot up here on my head.
On his decision to skip the Munich Olympics, after fighting Duane Bobbick in a 1972 tournament showcasing Olympic hopefuls:
They wanted me as a light heavyweight, and they wanted to keep him (Bobbick) as the heavyweight, ‘cause they wanted a white Olympic representative in the heavyweight division.
So therefore, they wanted me to move down to light heavyweight, and I couldn’t do that ‘cause I was losing much weight and I was weak. Then they changed and I fought Bobbick and I got disqualified for clinching. A lot of people said that I didn’t have no heart and I quit in the fight. No. To be frank with you, I didn’t want to go to the Olympics anyway in 1972. I had a gut feeling that, “Don’t go,” and it would be a lot of turmoil all over there and whatever. And I just didn’t want to go. You ever get a feeling that said, “Don’t get on the airplane, don’t drive that car, don’t go that way…”? And I had that kind of feeling. And I didn’t go. Thank God I didn’t go, because that year there was kidnapping and holding a lot of Jewish people hostage, and they mighta mistake me for, for being Jewish. And it coulda been all over for me. My career woulda ended there.
On relinquishing his WBC Heavyweight Title in 1983 after refusing to face heavyweight contender Greg Page, choosing instead to fight Marvis Frazier:
I mean, they were offering me three and a half million dollars to fight Marvis Frazier, and a million and a half to fight Greg Page. I mean, Marvis Frazier is a cakewalk. Greg Page is gonna be six, seven rounds. Marvis Frazier, one round; a couple of minutes. I am going out there and get the three and a half million dollars…for two minutes of work. Or do I want to work for an hour and a half—or an hour, a half hour? Give me the quick money, and that’s what I did. I went out, “Bam, wop,” the fight’s all over. $3 million in my bank account. And I won the belt back; and they gave it back to me. They said, they say, “You can’t quit.” I said, “I don’t want your belt no more. I am fighting for somebody else now.” And I gave it up. I didn’t care one whit about it.
On whether or not the checks kept him in boxing, as opposed to the record:
If anybody is fighting for a record, they can have it. Give me the check, give me the money.
On facing Michael Spinks in 1985 and saying boxing legend Rocky Marciano wasn’t worthy enough to carry Holmes’ “jockstrap:”
I really didn’t want to fight Michael Spinks; I really didn’t want to go for the record, ‘cause I knew the pressure that, that they was putting on me. But I said, “Well, and I am gonna do it anyway.” And then, I pulled my muscle in my arm and my doctor—and Las Vegas has got a doctor—said that I had a slip disc in my neck and I shouldn’t fight. “If I should fight, and throw that out, it’s gonna be paralyzed for the rest of your life.” So I didn’t pay that no mind; I was trying to get that three and a half million dollars. It was all about that three and a half million dollars coming up. And I said, “I am gonna fight him anyway.” But it was always on my mind, so I didn’t do the job that I normally do. And it was going against the record of Marciano’s. And they were saying, “What about the record?” I said, “I don’t care about that record. I ain’t worrying about that record. I am worrying about getting in there, and winning the fight and not getting hurt. Then go home, peaceful and happy. Marciano couldn’t carry my jockstrap.” When I said that…boy, the whole world came down on me.
On the freedom he experienced after being defeated by Michael Spinks in 1985 – a fight in which he lost his IBF Heavyweight Title and failed to tie Rocky Marciano’s boxing record of being undefeated in 49 straight bouts:
But I don’t care about that; I don’t gotta worry about my setting the record no more. And I ain’t gotta worry about the ghost on my back, riding up and down the street to Marciano and people talking about that. I ain’t gonna worry about that. It’s gone. Dead. I just have to live a normal life now. You ever have that kind of pressure that you? Just didn’t want to deal with it no more. And I didn’t want to deal with it; I didn’t want to be perfect. I didn’t want to be a Muhammad Ali or a Joe Frazier or a Rocky Marciano. I wanted to be Larry Holmes. I wanted to live in the world where I live now in Easton, Pennsylvania and have my little boy hang out. And that’s it. And have this young lady come down to get a drink and dance with me on a Friday and Saturday night… And I don’t care about the rest of it, you know what I mean? I just want to have fun, man. Enjoy the life. And they didn’t want me to do that. But they don’t like me to tell ‘em that. I am supposed to live like a hermit… I can’t. I gotta go out. And any of you come to Easton, you could see me any time. I am not one of them guys that hide from people. I am not one of them guys that have a whole lotta bodyguards. You see my bodyguards today? Angel and Buster. Buster is 99 years old. And Angel is my secretary, and she is only 5‑4. And me.
On defeating James “Bonecrusher” Smith in 1984 and defending his IBF Heavyweight Title, three weeks after undergoing a hemorrhoid operation:
I was trying to make a lot of money real quick. And James “Bonecrusher” popped in the picture, they gave me three and a half million dollars to fight James “Bonecrusher” Smith. And I shouldn’t have fought James “Bonecrusher” Smith, because three weeks before that, I had got a hemorrhoid operation. But for three and a half million dollars to go out there and fight James “Bonecrusher” Smith. So I went out there and I fought him. I was bleeding after the fight…but I got three and a half million dollars is all. I put a patch back there and come on down.
On the role of money in his boxing career and why he always needed more:
I got in it to make some money. At that time, I just think a million dollars was a lot of money…until I started building and buying things and doing things, then I needed another million then another million. And one of the things I was doing is not buying it on credit; I would pay everything off. If I bought a building—like I built a five‑story building? Four and a half million. Bang, I pay it off. I own it. ‘Cause I can’t pay the bank… I can’t see paying the bank three or four hundred thousand dollars a month. Been doing that for 18 years. Bought a hotel. Bought them all office buildings. Bought restaurants. Bought four restaurants and a nightclub. I would buy up Easton. Literally, I was buying up Easton, Pennsylvania. And I, well, needed money. So that’s what I thought.
On why he was smart enough to leave boxing healthy and wealthy, unlike other prominent fighters like Joe Louis, who fell on hard times:
I took a look at everything else before me. I mean, I didn’t want to end up like Joe Louis, broke, working in the hotels that he had to—because he had to. Or Archie Moore, or any of them guys. I wanted to be able to live happy, raise my family, making sure my kids got something. And I think I got it for the right price… My kids, they all went to school, they all got some college degrees and master’s degrees and doctor’s degrees. And you know what? That’s all from me. They got it. I am a seventh grade dropout, I didn’t get it. But I tell you what—I have a Ph.D. in common sense—smart enough to know that they gonna get it. And if they don’t get it, they are gonna have to get in the ring with me.
On whether or not winning the WBC Heavyweight Title in 1978 changed his mindset on life:
I just wanted the good life. My mindset didn’t change. I wanted the good life. I wanted to have the same friends, and be around the same people, not move out of my town. Build a house that I want to be able to live in for the rest of my life. And that’s what I did. I spent like $30 million—in my city—building and fixing up places and trying to have something for when I retire, like now, so I can go back and do it. That’s why young ladies sat by at my restaurant—yeah, I still have my restaurant. I built five‑story buildings in Pennsylvania. The Federal Courthouse, the National Bank. Those are the things that I did back, to invest in the city that I live, because I am gonna be there for the rest of my life.