The challenger also ran sprints instead of doing traditional nonstop roadwork—800s with a minute between, then 400s, 200s, 100s—as if he were training for the decathlon instead of 15 rounds with Holmes. He even went on a weightlifting program, which raised the scarred eyebrows of more than one boxing purist. Wouldn't a muscle-bound boxer be raw meat for a calculating tiger like Holmes? Spinks just grinned at the scoffers and kept on running his intervals and pumping iron.
"I don't care what he eats or what he lifts," said Holmes, who would make $3.5 million from the Spinks fight and had a promise of an equally colossal payday for his record-breaking 50th straight win. "When he gets into the ring he's gonna be smaller, and he's gonna be fearful. Don't forget, he's the one who threw in the towel to stop me from hitting Leon."
"I know what Larry is going to do," said Spinks one day last week. "If I was fighting a smaller guy I'd try to get rid of him early. But if Holmes comes straight at me, corners me, I'll have no choice but to fight. I'm not just going to stand there and take it. Hey, I've sparred with heavyweights, and I've been hit by them, and there is no pleasure in it."
As it turned out, Spinks became an instant heavyweight. He weighed in at 199¾, although at Holmes's suggestion the weight was announced as an even 200. Holmes weighed 221½. Many experts felt that Spinks's added pounds would cost him his only edge: speed. "No way," said Shilstone. "He put on 25 pounds but he's actually 1½ pounds leaner overall in fat content. His body fat dropped from 9.1 percent to 7.2 percent. That extra weight is all muscle. And he's faster. When we started this program eight weeks ago, we started running dashes against each other. A few days ago he beat me for the first time."
In spite of Spinks's new bulk and the almost cordial banter between the champion and his presumed victim in prefight appearances, in the ring on Saturday night Holmes quickly, almost disdainfully, established his superior strength. At the end of the first round, which he won easily against the slow-starting challenger, Holmes hooked Spinks around the neck and spun him roughly into his corner. Spinks was outraged at being treated like a naughty Cabbage Patch doll.
Holmes won the first two rounds, but his corner was hardly thrilled with his tactics. His justifiably famous left jab was firing at Spinks's face, but too frequently the target was gone by the time it arrived, and the threat of Holmes's devastating right had been only a threat. "You're anticipating his counter and not throwing the right," trainer Richie Giachetti told Holmes. "Your jab is working good. [Now] you got to double jab, then get off with your hook."
Early in the third round, after an exchange of body shots, Spinks caught the champion with a short right followed by a hook. After the round, Spinks sat in his corner in apparent pain. "Don't get careless," trainer Nelson Brison told Spinks as he loosened the trunks around his waist. Across the way, Giachetti, annoyed that Holmes had lost the round under a shower of quick but harmless punches, said, "You got to get him."
In the fourth, Spinks began to establish the pattern that would befuddle his opponent by its total unpredictability. As Holmes, his face set in stone, stalked him, the challenger would retreat in a series of swirling moves punctuated by flailing, striking attacks from seemingly impossible launch sites. The flurries carried little sting but scored points.
"You can't let the guy take it to you," Giachetti yelled at the end of that round. "All his funniness. You're letting this guy off his hook. Jab, throw the right, come back with the hook and then the right uppercut. You're the champ."
His pride stung, Holmes opened the fifth strong, his jab snapping as his right began finding Spinks, slowing him down. Undaunted by the resurgent champion, Spinks came back and won the sixth round, pausing to complain twice to referee Carlos Padilla that Holmes was hitting him with his elbows. That was a legitimate gripe, but the conversation also let Spinks grab quick breathers. At the end of the sixth, Giachetti pointed at Spinks and screamed in Holmes's ear: "Look at him. He's tired, goddam it. He's breathing heavy."