October 2nd, 2014 By Pedro Fernandez
10/2/1980 FIGHT A RING DEATH TO MANY
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.
CHAMPION WAS SECOND FIDDLE HERE
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.
NO IN THE HOUSE PAY PER VIEW
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.
HAD $50 SEATS IN GIANT OUTDOOR STADIUM
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 PLAYED GAME OF SMOKE & MIRRORS
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.
ANGELO DUNDEE SAID “LIGHT WASN’T RIGHT”
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.
TWO DAYS BEFORE THE FIGHT
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.
HAROLD SAYS HE TRIED TO TALK ALI OUT OF FIGHT
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.”
ALI LOOKED LIKE HE HAD TURNED BACK CLOCK
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?
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