Ali Training For Larry Holmes

Muhammad Ali Training For Larry Holmes

San Francisco, CA– The overweight man you see with a mustache here is Muhammad Ali in the late summer of 1980. After a two year hiatus from boxing, this after besting Leon Spinks in a 1978 rematch, promoter Don King (only eight years into promoting) convinced Muhammad to come back and fight unbeaten World heavyweight champion Larry Holmes on October 2, 1980, 34 years ago today. Actually, Ali didn’t need much convincing as DK was offering him $8 million reasons to fight again.


A former sparring partner of Ali, Larry can be seen beating Ali up in a Deer Lake, PA training session in the movie, “Ali: Brains, Skill, & Guts,” taped in 1974 as Ali prepped for his “Rumble in The Jungle” with George Foreman. Holmes, AKA “The Easton Assassin” was 31 years young and 35-0, 26 KOs.


This being October 2, 1980, we were a year prior to the Pay Per View concept coming to fruition when promoter Dan Duva stunned fellow promoters by offering Ray Leonard-Tommy Hearns I on limited home PPV. If you weren’t going to a sports bar, theater or an auditorium to see the fight on Closed Circuit TV, you weren’t watching Holmes-Ali, that was billed Ali-Holmes.


Having never seen Muhammad Ali fight live, I thought this would be probably my final opportunity. Muhammad was 38 years old and needed to drop a considerable amount of weight even before training had started. During camp, with the poundage not coming off at a desired rate, somebody on Ali’s team, I would say it had to be Herbert Muhammad, his manager and the son of the Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, brought in a quack MD in Dr. Williams.

Ali & Manager Herbert Muhammad

Ali & Manager Herbert Muhammad


Physically, at least visually, Ali looked great as he scaled 217 1/2 for Holmes. The aforementioned Dr. Williams, never heard of prior to Ali, was never heard from after Ted Koppel took him apart post-fight on ABC’s late night show Nightline. He gave Ali a drug called Thyrolar. Ali took it for about eight weeks in camp, allegedly for a Thyroid disorder that never existed.


The weight loss associated with Thyrolar took off the excess poundage, but it also robbed Ali of energy and stamina. In other words, Ali was a sleek race car with no motor under his hood. Ali realized he was “dead” at the weight in the days leading up to the fight. His only chance was to con Holmes into thinking he was still a killer, something Larry knew was not the case.

Holmes & Promoter Harold Smith

Holmes & Promoter Harold Smith


With the arena being erected outdoors on the tennis courts at Caesars Palace, Ali looked out the window of his Caesars Palace suite in the presence of promoter Harold Smith. Don King and Bob Arum’s main rival, Smith borrowed (embezzled) his promotional seed money from a Wells Fargo bank. Smith is still close with both Ali and Holmes today.


According to Smith, Ali was weak as a kitten and had problems getting up and out of bed. While looking out the window, Smith tried prodding Ali into postponing the fight. Ali’s response, “I can’t let all of those people down,” pointing to the crew setting up the ringside area. As Smith left and was walking down the hall, Don King yelled at him, “Mother f*cker, you better not f**k up my sh*t.”


To build up the fight, Ali appeared pre-fight on Nightline with the aforementioned Ted Koppel and looked to be in incredible shape, this due to hair dye and Thyrolar. If you look at the videos pre-fight, you could find yourself thinking Ali had a chance as he danced his way through sparring. To the average sports fan, Ali the Superman that he was could not even be felled by Kryptonite. Some even asked, Larry who?


Pedro Fernandez


  • Holmes jabs Stiverne, Arreola and even Klitschko silly en route to convincing 12 round decisions. Over 15 rounds its 13th or 14th round stoppages for Holmes.

  • Lee Marvin was the guy beaten up in place of Battling Maxo. He should never have left “M Squad.”

  • Holmes was underrated. Yes indeed. The Ali who fought Cleveland Williams against the best of Holmes, which was probably Cooney. I take Ali by close but clear cut decision. Around 144-140.

  • Wrong on the Ali-Holmes comparison. Underrated Larry!

  • “Don’t Fu.. Up My Sh**”… Why doesn’t this surprise me? This coming from the same sleaze ball scum bucket that stepped over a just flattened Joe Frazier to try and suck up some more blood money out of George Foreman. This kind of travesty would never happen today, and as great a champion as Holmes was he would simply never hold a candle to a prime Ali.

  • I also favor the K bros over Ali due to their size and strength. Ali was just too small for them. Nothing wrong with that. After all, not too many from the past could face the K monsters. Something about Norton, I think he had Ali,s number. I saw him winning their 3 fights or at least 2 of them.

  • this is pedro at his finest. right down to the details on the venue.

  • Larry holmes sucked, I was at a gym in ny upstate and saw larry get his butt knocked around by a bunch of fighters who never got title shots because they hit larry too hard in sparring

  • @dencio. I’m from Philly and my dad was tight with a lot of the fighters and trainers back in the day. The word was that Joe didn’t want to fight Norton based on his style; and also supposedly Norton handled Joe pretty well in some sparring sessions. I’m not going to guaranty this is true, but that’s what my dad told me many, many years ago. He said he got it directly from one of Joe’s close associates.

  • Sunny, you must be confused and realize it was Ali the fighter, not Ali the man that died in Vegas in October 1980.

  • Ali was really great….no one can replace him not even Joe Frazier

  • He was the GREATEST an there is nothing else left to say I love him n I hope he finds Jesus before its tooo late everybody please pray for his soul

  • Larry Holmes Is An “ALL-TIME” Heavyweight Champion. One Of My Favorite Fighters – “EVER”… Nevertheless – “MUHAMMAD ALI” Was The Most Gifted, Skilled, Courageous, Smartest & Most Talented Heavyweight “EVER”… In His “PRIME” – Matched Up With “ANY” Heavyweight In Their “PRIME” – Muhammad Ali Would Have Found A Way To Defeat That Fighter. He Lost The Best “BOXING” Years Of His Life (1967 – 70)… Larry Holmes Would Have “PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT” – But Against Muhammad Ali – It Would Have Been “GOOD NIGHT” – THREE JABS, AN UPPERCUT & A “RIGHT”!!! lol

  • Young Foreman over the K bros and Lewis. Young Foreman was not known for his footwork but he could move farely well and had a very good chin. I believe the young Foreman would touch them and they’ld be in trouble. I think the older Foreman was a more cerebral fighter but I think that he would stand in front of the K bros or Lewis and lose a decision.

  • bigdig/hector
    how about the Klitschko brothers or Lewis against foreman?

  • Will anyone dispute that DON KING is one of the worst mishaps to ever befall boxing? – to say nothing of boxing’s checkered past! One need only look at the ‘lost generation of heavyweights’ – Pinklon Thomas & Company. No, his grand promotions cannot top ‘the evil this man has done’ – to the sport as well as the boxers. NATIONALIZE!! – fer cryin’ out loud!

  • The HOLMES , ALI fight was fair enough…. Excuses are only good for Myaweather Jr against Pacquiao…. Mayweather Jr. has the chance to win but he has to be in that ring to prove himself… Manny Pacquaio the fighting congressman is currently the most exciting fighter in the decade and probably the best fighter that the world will ever see. Muhammad Ali is one of the best boxer PR man in the history of boxing. However, George Foreman still makes more money than Ali or Frazier and as well as a healthy pastor. It’s all about grace !!!

  • Hector, how about the Klitschko brothers or Lewis against Cassius Clay?

  • After watching many of Ali’s fights, I would favor the Klitschko brothers as of today (after learning from their previous mistakes)over Ali. I also favor Lennox Lewis against Ali. They are skillful giants that would use their size to win the fight.

  • dencio….another fine matchup. Actually, though they seemed from the same era, they reached their primes at different times, Frazier late 60’s early 70’s and Norton was primed mid 70’s to later. Norton would have a size advantage 4″ taller, longer reach, and 15lb advantage but I give Frazier an edge in skill and speed (short crisp punches) and he was just as stong. Could Norton overpower him say like Foreman and push Frazier back and hurt Frazier or tie him up like Ali?….but when you tie Joe up you’ve already let him inside and Ali paid the price for tying Joe up. Can’t let Joe come forward or you lose. I take Frazier by late KO in the 15 round days. Ken might have a better chance in the modern 12rd fights but Ken’s tools and style don’t look enough for Frazier.

  • holmes would not have beat a prime ali ali was faster and smoother all around larry was stiffer more robotic i liked both with all my heart but ali wins this one by un dec… thanks glenn leslie ps i could see it when they sparred and in the fight itself ali had nothing didnt throw a punch just like holmes did vs tyson no jab at all at that point glenn leslie

  • Denicio, Joe and Ken were very good friends and chose not to make a fight.
    Pedro, Joe treated Foreman as a “tune-up” and got himself tuned-up instead!

  • In a future where any boxing involving human fighters has been criminalized, the sport is now dominated by fighting robots. Former boxer Steel Kelly manages a B2-model robot called “Battling Maxo.” Maxo is an older fighting robot and we learn that due to his age, he is not in demand. Kelly and his partner have used the last of their money to get to the fight venue. He is being given this chance due to the fact that one of the scheduled fighters was damaged in transport. Kelly has to assure the fight promoter that Maxo will be able to fight. After the fight promoter leaves Kelly and his partner and mechanic, Pole, argue about Maxo’s condition and that he needs new parts. Kelly feels that Maxo should be able to go through with the fight despite Maxo’s age and condition. While Pole tests Maxo’s functions, an arm spring lets go and they don’t have the parts or the money to fix him. Kelly decides that since they are from out of town, he would disguise himself as Maxo in order to collect the money necessary for repairs. Steel enters the fight disguised as Maxo. However, despite a valiant effort, he is unable to damage the B7 robot he is fighting, even when he lands an unblocked punch directly in the back of its head. He is nearly killed after lasting a little under three minutes. The crowd jeers and boos at Maxo’s performance, not knowing that it is a human doing the fighting. Afterwards, the fight promoter will only give them half the prize money because of “Maxo’s” poor performance. The episode ends with Kelly, bruised but stubborn as ever, telling Pole that with the money they will get the parts to fix Maxo.

  • Joe was fading after the March 1971 first fight with Ali. He turned down a HUGE purse and chose Foreman for “short” money and an butt whipping. Anybody know the particulars on this?

  • bigdig
    one more matchup, prime frazier vs prime norton, they belong to the same era but they did not fight each, i wonder why. Pedro, do u know why these 2 great heavy did not fight each other?

  • dencio….good matchup. Its a pickem fight for me 50/50. Holmes does not move as well as Ali but has a more educated jab and uses his distance and range better than the Greatest in my opinion. Could Holmes take Fraziers heat and pressure and gain a measure of respect from Joe or could Joe walk right in? I could see a scenario with Holmes by decision but can also see Frazier by late KO. Never got to see Holmes in his prime tested by a caliber of a Joe Frazier in his prime. Good matchup.


  • The thing is we never saw a prime peak Ali as his refusal to join the arm forces took that chance away from us. Pre draft Ali did not hold as much and was lighting fast with decent power, and great ring generalship. I would suspect that he would have frustrated every heavyweight in history. He was just to fast. We know that Alid had a great chin which we only saw during his second coming. We also know that those years off took away Ali’s legs for the most part. The version of Ali that we saw was pre-peak and post-draft no legs. Imagine what a peak prime peak Ali would have looked like in that ring….All we can do is imagine.

  • Take this with a grain of salt Ali fans. I’m a Joe Frazier fan. The biggest hypocryte and most overrated heavyweight since Rocky Marciano was Ali. Ali perfected the punch and grab technique that sends boxing fans to exits. Yes he was great and would win 2 out of 3 against most of top heavyweights of any era. The way he treated Joe Frazier was great example of his integrity. These fighters I believe would have had a shot at beating him. Jack Johnson. Jack Dempsey. Joe Louis Larry Holmes. Vitali Klitschko

  • Ali vs Foreman in their primes, I would think the great Ali would have edge out a very close decision (8-7 rds). The pre draft Ali was not a finish product by any means but considering what he accomplished after he was allowed to fight, he would get a close disputed decision in a fight that could have gone either way. Holmes would always give Ali and any heavywight in history a top fight. I got Holmes no lower than 4 all time HW. I Actually got Joe Lewis at #1, Ali #2, Jack Jonhson #3, but I wouldn’t argue against Ali bein number one. Holmes was an educated fighter with the great technique.

  • everybody, including PEDRO

    i was wondering who would win, a prime frazier vs prime holmes.

  • It’s misguided to point the finger of blame at anyone other than Ali and his own greed. Ali was too smart a guy, and too firmly in the driver’s seat of his own choices to qualify for status as a victim of enablers & manipulators.

    Save the sympathy for broken-down old fighters who hang on becuase they got next to nothing for their years in the sport and almost no options outside of the ring. By 1980 the time when Ali was prevented from making money was ancient history and the the game had been very good for him in his second career.

    Just as a young Clay had no mercy or respect in taunting and getting himself over against the ancient & outgunned Moore & Patterson, so he should not receive much sympathy for taking his turn in the cycle of boxing entirely of his own volition.

  • Respect and understand where you’re coming from whiner but a prime Ali beats a prime Holmes. Ali’s movement would frustrate Holmes. Though Holmes is not flat footed by any means, Ali’s movement was too much for many heavyweights in the past and now. Holmes is not a pressure fighter by nature and Holmes fought in classic form not an unconventional style like Norton….those two styles pressure or unconventional really troubled Ali.

  • This is not accurate. Larry Holmes was a sparring partner for Ali.
    The jab was perfected by Ali and copied by Holmes.
    Ali, out of his prime beat Foreman. Holmes out of his prime, got destroyed by Tyson. I also think pretty accurately Ali would have crushed Tyson.

  • whiner, what you say is heresy (and complete bs)… A prime Ali (1967) would have no problems with a larry holmes (or a joe frazier or a ken norton, for that matter)… He had it all. I consider Ali the fastest heavyweight ever, the best chin, the most heart, the whole package. He was so much faster than all his opponents… and he fought lots of opponents holmes size (6’3″ or bigger) including bob foster, joe bunger, cleveland williams, ernie terrell, etc. Larry Holmes is an all-time great – but not in a league with a prime Ali.

  • In my humble opinion, and this might seem like heresy, the prime Larry Holmes would have beaten the prime Ali. The in shape motivated Holmes had everything except devastating power, plus he was bigger than Ali. Ali would not have been able to con him. Ali would not have been able to use the height and reach advantage that he had over most opponents. Ali would not have been able to frustrate Holmes the way he frustrated Foreman, because Holmes was not a puncher who either got his opponent out of there or fell apart psychologically.

  • Hey Pedro,

    This Ali vs. Larry Holmes article happens to be the best article I have read about boxing! Wow!! This article is like a novel with intrigue, public deception, criminality, great quotes, and it reminds me of that old Twilight Zone fight episode.

    Let me walk you through it. There was this Twilight Zone episode in the late 1950’s or so about boxing being banned in the U.S. for violence. The old boxing promoters still wanted to make money, so they invested in “fighting robots” that had mechanical boxing skills but the robots were designed to look like heavyweight human men. The story focusus on this aging heavyweight fighter, who couldn’t make money as a boxer because of the ban on boxing. The trainer and the old figher decided to do a diabolical scheme. The old fighter, disguised himself as a robot, and gets in the ring in a match with the fighting robot. The ending is eerie and similiar to what Larry Holmes did to Ali. Go find the episode!

    Good Work, Pedro

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *