The legend of Muhammed Ali was the fantasy of my growing years. I was too young to fully comprehend Ali at his height of glory. By 1974 when he fought Frazier I was just 3years old-both the 'Rumble in the Jungle' and 'Thriller in Manila' were in my toddler age but the myth of Ali was all over. When you spoke boxing it was Ali, just like when you spoke football, it was Pele. Or our mystical Thunder Balogun.
Ali was invinsible. Unbeatable. Or so we thought until October 3, 1980, at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. On that day one of the worst events in the history of boxing took place - Muhammad Ali vs Larry Holmes.
Younger, stronger, and in his prime, the 31 year old Larry Holmes (35-0), the WBC Heavyweight Champion, was matched up against an old, shopwarn Muhammad Ali (56-4) who was likely in the early stages of Parkinson's Disease, a disorder of the brain that slows one's reflexes and eventually leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination.
In an absolutely disgusting bout, the 31 year old champion dismantled the 38 year old legend in 10 rounds of a scheduled 15 round bout. There were no
knockdowns, but Holmes dominated the fight and was given every round by all three judges. Finally, Ali's corner stopped the fight after the tenth round.
The TKO marked the first and only time Ali was stopped inside the distance in his 61 fight pro career.
That feat to me constituted an unpardonable sin. Thus Larry Holmes became the first man I ever hated (pardon me for the use of that word). But how could you defeat Ali especially in his first real fight I was going to watch! Sacrilege!
Although, it was latter revealed that Holmes, had insisted after the fight that he held back, still unleashed savagery in spurts and pleaded with the ref in Round 9 to stop the fight. After Holmes won the fight, he sat crying in his locker room. Perhaps he realized he should of never taken part in the fight.
Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, former cornerman and ring physician for Ali, said the following about the bout:
"All the people involved in this fight should have been arrested. This fight was an abomination, a crime."
Today, we look at our great champion in the state in which he died and have to look back and wonder if Ali vs Holmes bout didn't happen, his case would have been different...
Was Larry Holmes to blame? At this level today I say no! We all are guilty-even and especially the fans. As sports fans, we often puts our athletes on a pedestal, never wanting to see great old performers exit the stage. Perhaps this event taught sports fans a great and valuable lesson: Everyone, even the great ones, can't be on top forever.
As the great poet Rene Daumal once said "You can't stay at the summit forever; You have to come down one day."
Muhammad Ali vs Larry Holmes was one of the great tragedies to ever take place in sports. Nobody wants to see their heroes fall, especially in such a demoralizing manner. Ali vs Holmes was that ugly spectacle. And much more.
Today as we celebrate our all time Champion, I let go and forgive Brother Larry Holmes. That is what Ali himself would like. Let's knock down hatred and prejudice on Ali's death. Let the love continue...after all, in the words of another Brother Mike Tyson, it was God who came 'to take His Champion away'.
RIP my champion. RIP Muhammad Ali.