PART II: ALI KILLED IN LAS VEGAS
SECOND AND FINAL INSTALLMENT
San Francisco, CA– In Part I, I took you through the maze of bull s*it that led up to the October 2, 1980 match between unbeaten heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali. The morning of the fight, the Godfather of all boxing writers, Jack Fiske is milling about the lobby of Caesars Palace. Also working the circular bar in the lobby (fight headquarters in those days) was press legend Dick Young when Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis (and two very unassuming bodyguards) approached the Big Apple columnist.
CAESARS PALACE LOBBY BAR WAS PLACE TO BE
Although the bar was open to the public, the ambiance was such that it made like a private setting. For some reason, only the most fanatical of fans would unknowingly breach the invisible circle of privacy that surrounds celebrities. Joe Frazier was there, as was Ken Norton, Joe Louis in a wheelchair, (all three have now passed) this less than six months away from the April 1981 death of the “Brown Bomber.”
SQUARES AFFECTED THE BETTING LINE BIG!
If you had any objectivity, Muhammad Ali had no chance against Larry Holmes. Even if Ali could roll back the clock to his last win, a UD 15 over Leon Spinks in 1978, that wouldn’t be nearly enough to beat Holmes. The native of Easton, PA was the “heel” in this promotion. Although not drawing the amount of negativity that George Foreman received prior to fighting Ali, Holmes was facing a legend in Ali, and that was not an easy spot to be in.
HOLMES NEEDED TO STAY FOCUSED ON TASK
In interviews leading up to the fight, Holmes was cool, calm and yet very much on edge. On occasion, he would scream about his being in a “no-win” situation. When Larry popped off and tried to add some humor to his spiel, the media would say he was trying to mimic Ali. There were two occasions in Larry’s career where he got less than fair treatment from the media. This first time against Ali, and if Larry thought he got it rough then, when he faced the “Great White Hope” Gerry Cooney, the press turned on him in Pontius Pilate like manner.
PEOPLE LINED UP TO BET CASH ON “NO-CHANCE” ALI
While the wise guys bet Holmes big, the squares, outnumbering the wise guys 100-1, all bet Ali. I recall one man betting Ali to the tune of $50 K. It was 6:30 PM, both men were in their dressing rooms. In the Ali’s quarters, the late Bundini Brown, corner man and motivator had come out and was running his mouth. Angelo Dundee emerged and tried to put his best spin on things, but deep down Angie knew Ali had no chance.
UNDERNEATH THERE WAS LEON SPINKS
For some reason people remember the Leon Spinks-Bernardo Mercardo fight underneath. Being a jr. welterweight, I recall the “Termite” Watkins-Saoul Mamby WBC title fight because it was so bad that it did nearly the impossible as it stunk out an outdoor arena!
TYPICAL DK CARD LASTED WAY TOO LONG!
After far too many rounds of boxing prior to a main event, a Don King trademark, Larry Holmes walked to the outdoor ring with the intention of exorcising himself of Muhammad Ali. Clowning around when he hit the squared circle, Ali looked old when they took off his robe. Although he had pulled off the biggest stare down in boxing history prior to massacring Leon Spinks, Holmes just wanted to get it over with!
ANYTHING LEFT UNDER THE HOOD?
The first round began and Ali looked a lot like Shane Mosley did a couple of years ago against Floyd Mayweather. I mean there was some “zip” in Ali getting off the stool for the first couple of rounds, but the writing was on the wall in both cases as one guy was far superior to the other. Using his piston-like jab to score easily and often, Larry would on occasion throw a right hand. But he soon realized that like a detailed vintage car with no motor under the hood, Ali wasn’t going anywhere.
CROWD CHANTING “ALI, ALI,” PRIOR TO ROUND EIGHT
In the eighth round, after losing seven straight sans any offense or real resistance, Ali got up on his toes and did the best Muhammad Ali impression he could at 38. On the move the majority of the three-minute session, Ali brought the crowd to their feet for the first time since the introductions some 30 minutes earlier from the late ring announcer Chuck Hull. But it was for naught as Holmes went on to tattoo Ali until Angelo Dundee had seen enough and stopped the fight before the start of the 11th round.
“NO-WIN” SITUATION LARRY WAS IN
There’s a feeling of sadness involved any time you watch a pugilistic crucifixion, especially involving an iconic figure in Muhammad Ali. Afterwards, you’d think there would be joy and ecstasy from the Holmes camp, but there wasn’t. Larry was dammed if he looked good, dammed if he didn’t.
NEVER COULD SHAKE THAT “ALI THING”
Although the “Easton Assassin” beat Ali, in the process destroying the myth that Ali was in 1980 at 38. History has been unkind to Holmes in some regards, this because he followed the one and only Muhammad Ali.
PRESS MEETING THE FOLLOWING MORNING
At the press conference of the following morning, Ali wearing sunglasses and a black shirt, sat there a beaten man. I approached him teary eyed, “I don’t want anybody to cry for me, I’m a grown man.” Then he looked at Holmes and said, “Man, why did you have to whip me so bad?” Truth be told, Larry Holmes took it easy on Ali. Had Larry not pulled his punches, the ending might have indeed been tragic.
IF YOU MISSED IT, HERE’S PART I
CLICK HERE FOR PART I http://ringtalk.com/muhammad-ali-killed-in-las-vegas-1980