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Cruisin' for a Bruisin'
Richard Hoffer
June 08, 1992
Despite rumors to the contrary, Larry Holmes, 42, is not broke, but for $7.5 million he has agreed to curtail his daily fishing trips long enough to fight for Evander Holyfield's heavyweight title
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June 08, 1992

Cruisin' For A Bruisin'

Despite rumors to the contrary, Larry Holmes, 42, is not broke, but for $7.5 million he has agreed to curtail his daily fishing trips long enough to fight for Evander Holyfield's heavyweight title

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Futch, Bowe's trainer now and Holmes's trainer then, is somewhat less disgusted. But on the main point he agrees. "This doesn't do boxing any good," Futch says. "I can't blame Larry. He'll get almost as much money for this fight as he did for Cooney, and he'll get to-keep it. But I would say he'll earn it as a result of fortuitous circumstances."

Futch predicts that Holmes will be overwhelmed by Holyfield in the fifth or sixth round. "After Larry fades, it will become pretty rugged," Futch says. Holmes may even feel underpaid for his troubles.

Perhaps then the public's appetite for middle-aged contenders will abate, and boxing will go about its business. By then Foreman and Holmes will have banked their huge payouts, had their fun and retooled their public personas to advantage. Two of the crankiest champions ever will have been rehabilitated (and enriched) as two fun guys. So neither of them has to beat Holyfield to bring dignity to his comeback. "You have to understand," says Holmes, the seventh-grade dropout who has outsmarted everybody in boxing. "I already had my title fight when I beat Mercer."

Diane's birthday celebration, we're happy to tell you, is not limited to the little ocean voyage. Holmes, after all these years, is too smart for that. The day that began with intractable boredom ends with a party at a restaurant in Bethlehem, Pa., near Easton. Holmes is plainly pleased to have organized this—although he left the details to a sister-in-law—and he is pleased at Diane's surprise. She expected a family dinner but instead walked into a banquet room at the Minsi Trail Inn and saw a congregation of 38 friends and relatives. Score it Holmes, KO 1.

Holmes seems happiest when his family is assembled. The pleasure and pride he takes in Diane is obvious. His arm is always draped around her. He brags of her involvement in a loose-knit women's group that does charity work. And his children—two grown daughters. Misty and Lisa, from a long-ago relationship and Kandy, 12, and Larry Jr., 9, from his marriage to Diane—seem more important than his boxing. In his vast office there are fewer fight artifacts than there are Father's Day cards and karate trophies won by Larry Jr. But at the same time there is a determination in Holmes's devotion to family life. Perhaps it's the same with anybody who grew up in domestic turmoil. Holmes means to enforce his family's normality.

This is hard and confusing work for Holmes. He appears to have solved problems in his immediate family by the usual means: discipline and attention. The rest of Holmes's scattered relations confound him, though. Brother Jake, Larry's "bodyguard" during the championship years, is doing three to seven on a drug-related charge. Brother Mark, a promising middleweight who was provided carefully chosen fights on Larry's championship cards and was later given charge of a nightclub owned by Larry, is also serving time on a drug conviction.

"I helped them out," Holmes says of his brothers, "but it might not have been enough. Maybe they wanted to stand on their own. They have pride. Of course I'm disappointed. I wanted my brothers to be well educated, to be businesspeople, to be loved by their neighbors. But what can I do? I know some of my brothers are asses. Aren't everybody's brothers? It's something that's wrong with me; I just want to have the perfect family."

Holmes, for all his ferocity in the streets of Easton (at one point, a knockout every weekend for 40 weeks in loosely organized fights), must have been a wistful child. He saw the want in his family, watched his brothers and sisters examining an empty icebox late at night and reassuring each other that Mom had merely forgotten to shop, and imagined that that was what caused their troubles. "Do you remember that TV show The Millionaire?" he asks. "I kept waiting for Michael Anthony to come to our door, give my mom a million dollars."

In time he became the Millionaire, and though he doesn't believe in throwing money at problems (he's kind of tight), he will not suffer a problem that can be solved by money. He bought his mother a house, employed his brothers, gave one brother a gift of land that was resold for $380,000. "Ask my wife how much money is in her checking account," Holmes says. "Ask her." She won't say. He whispers, "Two hundred, $250,000." He promised himself a long time ago that he and Diane would never disagree over money.

At his wife's dinner Holmes is almost smug in his happiness. In the beginning he thought he might make enough money in boxing to open his own nightclub, a place in Easton where he could come and go, drink if he wanted, tend bar, talk to his buddies. He wanted a wife like Diane and a family that would be something like the nuclear units he saw on TV. It was such fantasy—for this seventh-grade dropout, this son of a sharecropper—that he wouldn't permit himself to share it with anyone. Now he sits at the head of the table with his wife, his arm draped around her. He actually says. "I'm already living happily ever alter."

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