Georgia native Larry Holmes reigned as world heavyweight boxing champion from June 1978 to September 1985. Holmes successfully defended his title twenty times, more than any heavyweight champion except Joe Louis. His repertoire included a stiff left jab, powerful overhand right, and expert ring generalship.
Holmes was born in Cuthbert, in Randolph County, on November 3, 1949, to Flossie and John Holmes. When Holmes was six, his family left Georgia for Pennsylvania, settling in Easton. As a teenager he learned to box at a local youth center. Under the guidance of former prizefighter Earnee Butler, the 6-foot-3-inch Holmes embarked on an amateur career in 1970. Three years later he turned professional, fighting under the moniker “The Easton Assassin.” By 1978 Holmes’s record stood at twenty-six wins and no losses, with nineteen knockouts, and he was ranked among the heavyweight division’s elite. Holmes earned number-one contender status in March of that year when he defeated power-punching Ernie Shavers by decision over twelve rounds.
The victory set up a June 9, 1978, showdown with World Boxing Council heavyweight titlist Ken Norton. With the fight virtually even after fourteen hard-fought rounds, Holmes rallied in the fifteenth to win the championship via split decision. Cementing his claim to the heavyweight throne, in October 1980 Holmes scored an eleventh-round technical knockout over the faded former titleholder Muhammad Ali. The most-hyped defense of Holmes’s reign took place June 11, 1982, when he knocked out “White Hope” Gerry Cooney in thirteen rounds. Holmes, now the champion of the International Boxing Federation, lost his title to Michael Spinks, by controversial decision, on September 21, 1985. Before the loss Holmes had a perfect record in forty-eight professional bouts, one victory short of former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 career mark. Holmes failed to regain the championship on four occasions, the last time in April 1995.
Holmes’s autobiography, Larry Holmes: Against the Odds, written with Phil Berger, appeared in 1998. Holmes last fought on July 27, 2002, scoring a ten-round unanimous decision. The victory gave Holmes sixty-nine wins in seventy-five professional fights, forty-four by knockout. He resides in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Diane. They have five children.