Boxing legend Larry Holmes reveals what he learned from sparring Muhammad Ali

  • Tom Ward

Boxing legend Larry Holmes has revealed how sparring Muhammad Ali early on in his career taught him a number of invaluable lessons.

Holmes, who was seven years younger than The Greatest, made his professional debut in 1973, 13 years after Ali.

Fighting as a heavyweight, he amassed a record of 69 wins and six losses and hung up the gloves in 2002 after victory over Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch.

He is regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time and fought all the greats of his era.

Holmes and Ali spent five years together at Deer Lake until the former left to focus on his own career and he credits Ali with teaching him how to throw his famous combination.

The Easton Assassin sang Ali’s praises and described him as ‘one of the greatest fighters of all time’.

Holmes told The Telegraph: “There were so many great fights, and we are all tempted to go on for too long, but early on, I learned so much working as Muhammad Ali’s sparring partner for four, five years.

“I borrowed it all from Ali.

Larry Holmes, left, with Muhammad Ali and George Foreman

“Jab, jab, jab, jab, right hand, left hook. Jab, jab, jab… I watched him, I sparred him, and he did that – so why couldn’t I do it?

“Ali was one of the greatest fighters of all time.

“I had the pleasure of meeting, eating his food, running on his grounds and people always ask ‘what was it about Muhammad Ali?’ and I try my best to explain it – but, you know, it’s unexplainable, because he did so much of everything.

“He taught me so much, and then he came back to fight me in the ring. I took no pleasure in beating Ali.”

Holmes also opened up about his decision to come out of retirement to fight Mike Tyson in January 1988.

Muhammad Ali is regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer to have graced the planet

The 72-year-old was soundly beaten that night as his comeback ended in ruin but insists it would’ve been a very different story had it happened a few years earlier.

Holmes said: “You don’t go out like that, you go out standing on your feet.

“He did against me what I did when I fought Mike Tyson.

“I shouldn’t have come out of retirement against him. I fought Mike Tyson and I lost. He stopped me.

“Tyson could punch, you can’t take that away from him.

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Muhammad Ali

Where was Muhammad Ali born?

“He would stand in front of you, try and push you against the ropes, but he wouldn’t have been able to do that to me in my prime.

“I would have beaten him. So would Ali, Joe Frazier, Norton and George Foreman. But you should quit while you’re ahead.”

The Pennsylvania native also spent time in the company of Joe Frazier and revealed he once ‘broke my ribs’ during a sparring session.

Holmes added: “Joe Frazier knocked people out and he was only 5ft 10in tall. I remember working with Joe as a sparring partner and he broke my ribs. But you didn’t get no day off.

“I was walking around holding my ribs. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid, he told me. So I worked.

“I’d put $10,000 on my head. If you knock me down, I’ll give you $10,000, I’d tell them. And they tried to knock me down.

“No one did it. And I was beating them up, I was sad about it.

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