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He had started the day early, plodding along the road, slow-jogging mile after mile between the long fields of cornstalks. He followed the run with a light breakfast, just orange juice and eggs. After a brief nap, he suited up for a two-hour workout in the spacious and well-equipped gym built into the loft of the barn in Orwell, Ohio. The workout ended with six rounds of hard sparring, and now Larry Holmes, the new WBC world heavyweight champion, stood studying his reflection in the large mirror on one wall. "Do I look fat?" he asked, frowning at his belly. It was still a bit fleshed out from a round of mild celebrating and a brief international tour.
"Only a little bit," said Richie Giachetti, Holmes' trainer and manager. "It will come off easy."
"So who you fighting, Larry?" asked one of the onlookers.
Holmes continued to study the mirror. "Don't know. Don't matter much."
"Well, you don't know who, do you know when?"
"Don't know that, either." Holmes shrugged. "For years people been running away from me. Nobody wanted to fight me. Now they got to. And the door to Larry Holmes is wide open."
That was last Aug. 9, more than a month before the Leon Spinks-Muhammad Ali rematch in New Orleans, and just 61 days after Holmes had won the WBC title from Ken Norton. And now Holmes knows both who and when: he will defend his title next Friday night at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas against Spain's Alfredo Evangelista, who battled an elusive Ali for 15 futile rounds in 1977. The defense will come just one week after Holmes' 29th birthday.
"That's a sort of magic number," he says. "I'll be 29 and it will be my 29th victory. Of course, it'll only be my 20th knockout."
Holmes, now generally acknowledged to be a fighter with quickness and the ability to hit with either hand, is a creation of the streets, a tough and hardened young man who grew up in both violence and poverty. But in talking about his first defense, he says softly, "I have money now. And I now am the heavyweight champion of the world. And I didn't get either one of those things by just sitting around waiting for something to happen."
Holmes was born Nov. 3, 1949 in Cuthbert, Ga., fourth eldest of the 12 children of John and Flossie Holmes. He has been working since he was 13—since the day he walked out of the seventh grade at Shull Junior High and went to work for John DiVietro at the Jet Car Wash in Easton, Pa. for $1 an hour. The family had moved to Easton in 1954, but Holmes' dad had moved on alone to Connecticut, where he worked as a gardener until he died in 1970. Flossie was left to raise her large family on a meager portion of welfare and a powerful serving of maternal love.