Mike Tyson vs. Larry Holmes

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1988-01-22 : Mike Tyson 215¾ lbs beat Larry Holmes 225¾ lbs by TKO at 2:55 in round 4 of 12

Mike Tyson and Father Time caught up with Larry Holmes tonight.

Holmes, 38 years old and a grandfather, could not withstand the furious assault of Tyson. He knocked Holmes down three times in the fourth round of a scheduled 12-round heavyweight title bout before Referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight 5 seconds before the end of the round.

Tyson, the undisputed champion, was the aggressor throughout the bout, but it was not until that fourth round that he caught up with the clinching, retreating Holmes.

Then, with one booming right hand, Tyson put Holmes into deep trouble. The right landed flush on the chin of Holmes, who dropped onto the seat of his trunks, in Tyson's corner.

Holmes got to his feet by the count of 4 and grabbed the ropes as Cortez gave him the mandatory 8-count. Then Holmes shook his head several times to clear it and let go of the ropes as Tyson came forward.

Tyson winged lefts and rights, trying to open up Holmes and land the finishing shot. A big right by Tyson sent Holmes lurching into the ropes and down again.

This time Holmes was up at the count of 5.

Tyson seemed intent on ending the fight, throwing and landing one punch after another, some of them causing Holmes's head to snap back. By now, ringsiders were shouting, "Stop the fight!"

The fight went on. Holmes retreated, Tyson pursued.

Another heavy right by Tyson dropped Holmes in his tracks. As soon as Holmes fell backward onto the canvas, Cortez waved an end to the bout.


"I just felt I didn't have to bother counting," Cortez said afterward. "I pulled out his mouthpiece and got out the way so the doctor could look him over. Larry was all right. He rose to a sitting position and told everybody, 'I'm O.K.'" O.K., in this case, was relative. First Knockout Through 50 previous fights, Holmes had been knocked off his feet on occasion, but this marked the first time that he was knocked out.

Tonight he fought as if he were aware of his vulnerability. In the first two rounds, he concentrated on defense, holding Tyson off with an outstretched arm, or drawing him into a clinch when Tyson charged forward.

On occasion, when Tyson missed with his wide arcing punches, Holmes quickly stepped to the side, out of the way.

In the third round, Holmes became more offense-minded, trying to use his jab as he had in his prime. Holmes even danced on his toes, drawing a cheer from the crowd.

"The people were more excited than I was," Tyson said later. "The crowd got pumped up and Larry let his ego get involved. I said, 'Now he's going to get it.'" Tyson said that even as a champion, Holmes was susceptible to the right hand.

"He made the same mistake back then," Tyson said. What was the mistake? "He always kept his left hand low."

Tyson made him pay dearly for the mistake. And with the first knockdown, he said, "I knew he wasn't going to finish the round."

Holmes did not appear at the postfight news conference. But Larry Merchant, who interviewed him immediately after the fight as part of the telecast of the bout, said: "Larry Holmes was very generous in his praise of Tyson. He said he was a much sharper puncher than he thought. Toward the end, he got into a very philosophical mood. He said, 'They always get you and some day they'll get him.'"

Earlier this week, Tyson said that while doing roadwork as a teen-age amateur boxer, he used to fantasize about beating Holmes.

With the victory, Tyson will begin campaigning abroad. He is scheduled to fight next on March 21 in Tokyo against Tony Tubbs.

In June, Tyson is expected to meet Frank Bruno, a British fighter, in London. Bout Could Wait

Earlier today, Bill Cayton, co-manager of Tyson with Jim Jacobs, said that there was a chance Bruno would be deferred to a later date if Butch Lewis, Michael Spinks's promoter, can quickly come to terms on a deal for a Tyson-Spinks match.

Lewis and Spinks attended the fight tonight. Cayton said there was a possibility that meetings with Lewis would be held over the weekend.

"Butch Lewis has to know that if the fight is made, he cannot be promoter or co-promoter," Cayton said. That pre-condition has been an obstacle in negotiations with Lewis. But with the leverage of managing the champion, Cayton and Jacobs are in a position to enforce their terms.

Should Lewis and Tyson's managers resolve their differences (a slim possibility, Cayton said), a Tyson-Spinks bout would probably take place in June.

For Tyson, the Holmes fight was the first in a new seven-bout $26.5 million deal with Home Box Office, the cable television network.

For fighting Holmes, Cayton said, Tyson was guaranteed $3 million, contradicting earlier reports that Tyson's guarantee was more than $5 million. But Cayton said that with Tyson's percentages of fight-related incomes, his share would be considerably increased.

Holmes was reportedly guaranteed $3.1 million.

The New York Times - January 23, 1988


  • Tyson was an 8-to-1 betting favorite.
  • Holmes, 38-years-old and out of the ring for nearly two years, suffered the inevitable humiliation of his first and only knockout defeat at the hands of Tyson, 17 years younger. Holmes did not fight for over three years following the loss, but returned in 1991 and went on to fight until 2002.


  • "I thought Larry fought a very smart fight for the first three rounds. I don't think Tyson knocked out a completely shot Larry Holmes. He's got that tremendous punch and he nailed Holmes. I think he's run out of opponents. I think he's that good." - Gil Clancy
  • "In the end, Larry Holmes went out like a champion... fighting. When the curtain finally fell on Holmes' long and successful career, the Easton Assassin was flat on his back but still struggling to get up and face Mike Tyson once again. However, Referee Joe Cortez knew better." - Nigel Collins
  • "Tyson is a lot better than I thought, a lot better. People can talk about Spinks all they want... Tyson is the true champion." - Larry Holmes