Larry Holmes vs. Carl Williams

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1985-05-20 : Larry Holmes 222¼ lbs beat Carl Williams 215 lbs by UD in round 15 of 15

By Michael Katz, New York Times, May 21, 1985

RENO, May 20 — Larry Holmes, on his quest for history, ran into the future tonight and almost stumbled. But in a fight that should restore some luster to the heavyweight division, the venerable 35-year-old champion overcame what sometimes look like a 25-year-old version of himself and scored a unanimous decision over Carl (The Truth) Williams.

Holmes, on his way perhaps to bettering records for heavyweights held by such giants as Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis, was so bruised in the nationally televised 15-round fight at the Lawlor Events Center that he did not appear at the post-fight news conference. His left eye was nearly closed - he had suffered contusions around both eyes - his mouth was cut and he was exhausted.

"That's the most punches he's taken in any fight since I've worked with him," said Eddie Futch, Holmes's trainer since 1981.

The champion, now unbeaten in 48 fights, had to battle back to win on the scorecard of Judge Jerry Roth of Las Vegas, who gave Holmes the final four rounds to arrive at a 143-142 margin on the 10-point system. Paul Gibbs of Seattle and Al Rothenberg of Virginia Beach, the other judges, each had it 146-139, Williams put the lie to all the jokes about his self-given nickname. For long periods, the 6 1/2-1 underdog, with only 16 previous pro fights, outjabbed the jabber and outboxed the boxer. And like Holmes, one of his role models, he showed great courage and recouperative powers while taking the champion the full 15 rounds for the first time since Nov. 26, 1982, when Randall (Tex) Cobb lost a one-sided decision.

There were no knockdowns, but Holmes hurt Williams in the ninth round with wicked body shots and in the 14th with a solid right uppercut to what turned out to be not such a questionable chin.

"Holmes threw good body shots, very good body shots, which is surprising since The Champ is not noted as a body puncher," said Williams, who was cut over the left eye and who appeared exhausted at the end of the ninth.

Williams, suffering his first loss after 16 victories against mediocre opposition, stamped himself even in defeat as one of the mediocre division's better fighters.

"I hate to think of losing," he said, "but I lost to a great champion. But I think it's time to pack it in."

That seems unlikely. With the victory, Holmes needs one more to tie Marciano, who retired with a 49-0 record. This was also his 20th successful defense of the title he won by outpointing Ken Norton on June 9, 1978. That broke a tie for second place with Muhammad Ali, and left him only five behind the record of 25 set by Louis. Should Holmes, as planned, go for 50, he would have 22 successful title defenses.

According to Ferdie Pacheco, the NBC commentator, Holmes told him afterward:

"I've got to go back and think about it - these young guys are getting too young and too strong."

"Larry Holmes is a great fighter," said Referee Mills Lane. "But he the man who beat Ken Norton seven years ago was not the same boxer who fought tonight. Remember, 35 is 35."

From the opening bell, which was the one used when Jack Johnson knocked out James J. Jeffries on July 4, 1910, in the last heavyweight title bout here, Williams showed he was not intimidated by the champion. The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound boxer with an 85-inch reach, 4 inches longer than Holmes's, was able to nullify the champion's best punch, the left jab, with his own.

He found out in the third round, though, what Holmes had meant before the fight when the champion had admitted Williams's jab was faster, but "mine is more experienced."

"It took me awhile, but then I realized, 'Oh, God, he's cutting me,'" said Williams. "He threw his jab past my head, just enough so the laces cut me."

But the cut did not discourage the young challenger as much, he said, as hurting his right thumb early in the bout. He soon had the crowd of about 6,000 in the 12,100-seat arena, which had booed him on his entrance, chanting, "Truth, Truth."

Williams was beating Holmes to the jab, and they were exchanging right hands through the early rounds. When Holmes landed the right uppercut in the fourth round, Williams merely shook his head, "No," and went back on the attack.

He repeatedly earned the champion's respect. But though he was landing solid punches, the 6-3 1/2, 222 1/4-pound Holmes never appeared seriously hurt.

In the final minute of the sixth round, Williams followed his quick jab with a sudden right hand high on Holmes's head that lifted the champion's left leg off the canvas.

The challenger was growing in confidence. Holmes appeared to be waiting for Williams to make a mistake, but the challenger, who started boxing only five years ago in South Jamaica, Queens, was not foolhardy.

In the eighth round, Holmes switched his attention to Williams's trim body. In the ninth round, it appeared only the Johnson-Jeffries bell saved him. The crunching body shots took the challenger's wind. Holmes's overhand rights were landing with regularity. He tried rallying, but Holmes pounded his body more, and a right uppercut almost dropped him. Several more overhand rights followed to the head, with a right to the midsection visibly taking away the challenger's breath at the end of the round Williams wisely kept his distance in the 10th round, and Holmes's aging legs did not insist upon chasing him. In the 11th, Williams showed he was far from through when a right hand sent Holmes back into the ropes.

In the 14th, a right uppercut again appeared to have Williams in trouble, but the challenger rallied with whatever he had left. It was not enough.

Holmes earned $2.3 million. Williams got $175,000, not bad for a man who was knocked down twice in the first round by James (Quick) Tillis in his last bout.

Tillis was outpointed by Marvis Frazier in a 10-rounder on the undercard tonight. Frazier survived a standing 8-count in the second round and outworked Tillis.