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Larry Holmes was an American heavyweight boxing champion in the late 1970s and early 1980s who was known for his solid defense.
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Larry Holmes was born on November 3, 1949, in Cuthbert, Georgia. In the mid-1970s, he was a sparring partner for both competing heavyweight champions, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. From 1973 to 1978 Holmes won 28 consecutive bouts. In 1978 he won the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight crown. In 1983, amid ongoing disagreements with boxing promoter Don King, Holmes relinquished his WBC title.
"I came from a dirt farm, now I'm filthy rich."
Larry Holmes was born on November 3, 1949, in Cuthbert, Georgia. The fourth of John and Flossie Holmes's 12 children, he was just 7 years old when his parents split and he moved with his mother and siblings to Easton, Pennsylvania.
Burdened by his family's hardship, Holmes quit school at the age of 13 and went to work at a local car wash for $1 an hour. As he got older, Holmes took on different jobs. He drove a dump truck, poured steel, and was even employed as a sandblaster. Oftentimes he turned his earnings over to his mom, who relied largely on welfare to feed her children.
Out on the streets, however, Holmes was far less generous. He projected an air of toughness and wasn't afraid to get into a brawl if someone crossed him. "I used to knock out a guy every weekend," Holmes later recalled. "There was always somebody to challenge you. I had streaks. Once I went 40 straight weekends, knocking out some guy every one of them."
After years of street fighting, a 19-year-old Holmes, who'd grown to 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, decided to pursue boxing for a living. To learn the sport, he turned to Earnee Butler, an Easton businessman who'd once fought professionally.
Working under Butler, Holmes quickly honed his skills in the ring, winning 19 of his 22 amateur fights. In March of 1973 he turned pro. Holmes spent the early part of his professional career fighting under Butler, but he eventually split from his mentor and worked with a host of other trainers and managers, including Don King.
Even as he racked up wins, Holmes largely flew under the radar in the boxing world. He earned the bulk of his money as a sparring partner for some of boxing's biggest names, such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Earnie Shavers and Jimmy Young.
Notoriety and acclaim finally came Holmes's way when he fought and beat Earnie Shavers on March 25, 1978, to set up a World Boxing Council title fight against Ken Norton that September. In what would be remembered as one of boxing's classic fights, Holmes captured the belt in a 15-round decision.
Holmes retained the WBC crown until 1983, when he relinquished the title to become champion of the newly formed International Boxing Federation. He went on to successfully defend his IBF belt three times, upping his professional record to 48-0, just one win shy of the all-time undefeated mark set by the late Rocky Marciano. But on September 21, 1985, the heavily favored Holmes lost to Michael Spinks in a 15-round decision. A rematch six months later resulted in a similar outcome, prompting a bitter Holmes to retire.
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