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Larry Holmes Kicked Off Heavyweight Title Action in AC in 1983

Posted on 03/22/2011

Believe it or not, the first heavyweight championship fight in Atlantic City did not take place until September of 1983, when Larry Holmes, who held the WBC version of the title and had just come off a tougher-than-expected defense against Tim Witherspoon.

Scott Frank, who hailed from Oakland, NJ, came into the fight with a 20-0-1 record that was largely undistinguished. He had not beaten any contenders, but he did have a draw in Atlantic City with Renaldo Snipes, who had knocked Holmes to the floor during a challenge for the WBC crown. To his credit, I guess, he had won the New Jersey heavyweight title from Chuck Wepner and defended it three times. It was Holmes’; 16th title defense, and no one gave Frank very much of a chance. Frank himself seemed a little confused as to the task at hand.,

“I don’t have a fight plan,” he told reporters in the days leading up to the fight. “I’ll decide what to do in the ring.”

Holmes had come by the title hard, having to wait his turn while paying his dues as a sparring partner for Muhammad Ali and on countless undercards of Don King promotions. Once he had wrested the WBC belt from Ken Norton in 1978, he faced the best of what was largely a division that was lacking. There were bouts against forgettable types like Ossie Ocasio, Lorenzo Zanon, Leroy Jones, Alfredo Evangelist and Randall “Tex” Cobb. This was seen by some as Holmes’ version of Joe Louis’ “Bum of the Month” club, and Frank may have been the most undecorated and easily forgettable challenger in the lot.

Frank was ranked #10 in the world by the WBC, and his challenge to Holmes came in a rather unusual and direct fashion. He simply went to the offices of Main Events, who had promoted some of his fights, and called Holmes on the telephone. That turned out to be a $350,000 phone call for him.

This was nothing new for Frank, who made a habit of arranging fights in his basement when he was growing up in Bergen County. However, this was a big step up from the aging Wepner or the erratic Snipes, as Holmes was 43-0 and on a collision course with Rocky Marciano’s all-time record of 49 straight wins for a heavyweight champion.

The fight, which was to be televised on NBC, came from a huge tent that was pitched on the premises of Harrah’s Marina, ready to accommodate up to 5000 fans.

It was no contest. Holmes peppered Frank with his trademark jab from the outset, and used it to follow up with combinations. Frank, who claimed to have been thumbed by Holmes, continued to take a battering until he was floored with a left-right in the fifth round, falling near his corner. He got up, but Holmes continued the onslaught and the fight was stopped. Frank was unhappy that referee Tony Perez had come in and stopped the proceedings, but it may have been a mission of mercy.

Holmes said of his opponent, “He’s strong and determined and he’ll make it if he stays at it.”

Frank stayed at it for only one more fight, then hung up his gloves in 1987. A comeback ten years later lasted only one fight as well. The Holmes fight remained the only loss on his record.

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