Everyone knows that Larry Holmes beat the brakes off Muhammad Ali in 1980.
It’s a fight that has been discussed almost exclusively through the lens of sadness. The 38-year-old Ali was shot. He hadn’t even fought in over two years when he decided to face Holmes, who had firmly taken control of the heavyweight division at age 30.
Holmes was Ali’s successor in many ways, having taken the WBC title from Ken Norton in 1978, making seven successful defenses from there, before being matched with “The Greatest.”
Ali’s doctor Ferdie Pacheco — who had left Ali’s team in 1977 because he didn’t think Muhammad should be fighting anymore — would say, “All the people involved in this fight should’ve been arrested. This fight was an abomination, a crime.”
“It was really hard because he was my buddy,” Holmes said in 2017 to GQ Magazine. Ali had hired a young Holmes as a sparring partner in the early 1970s. “He was the guy that gave me a job. He was the guy that taught me how to fight.”
It was really just not a good night for boxing, looking back on it.
But what if you could teleport each man at his best together during their primes?
Holmes may not have reached the incredible heights Ali did, or have the flashy style of Muhammad, but he was a great pro who learned tremendously even though he started boxing later than most, applied it all, and used his strengths incredibly well.
On the cusp of Marciano’s record, Holmes is dethroned by Spinks
So what would this fight have looked like? Did Larry have the sort of style that would’ve given the brash and incredibly confident Ali fits, especially considering a prime Holmes had worked with a top form Ali and knew the tricks that Muhammad tried to pull on opponents to get them to make mistakes? Or was Ali simply too good, too skilled, and just a level about Holmes?