In the event that you understandably fell asleep during HBO's telecast of last Friday night's WBC "heavyweight championship" fight in Las Vegas, the whale in the white trunks playing pat-a-cake didn't win. The guy in the black trunks, who looked like Captain Ahab slinging harpoons from a foundering rowboat, did—by two overly zealous votes and one abstention. Yawn! And the heavyweight champion of the world is still Larry Holmes, who went 12 rounds at ringside wearing a dark-blue suit and an expression of disdain.
Now that he has turned his broad back on the WBC and promoter Don King, Holmes has been training in Reno, where on April 6 he'll, so to speak, defend his latest "world" title, this one sanctioned by the International Boxing Federation, against John Tate, a fight that no network has the gall to televise. All week Holmes seemed uninterested in the battle between the whale, a.k.a. Greg Page, and Tim Witherspoon for the title Holmes had vacated last December. But at the last moment Holmes flew down to see who'd claim the crown he'd won in 1978 and successfully defended 17 times.
"I knew I should've stayed home," Holmes said after watching Witherspoon plod to a majority decision over Page. "I'd have seen more action watching some old lady play the slot machines at the MGM Grand. At least she might have hit something once in a while."
The interest in this fight, such as it was, stemmed from the fact that the 34-year-old Holmes late last year had refused King's offer to fight the No. 1-ranked Page "for only $2.55 million," which led Holmes to surrender his WBC title rather than make the mandatory defense. And only 10 months ago Holmes had to rally to win a split decision over the relatively unknown Witherspoon.
"I beat him," Witherspoon said last week.
"I would've beat him," said Page.
"We beat him," the WBC and King seemed to be saying when, after a lengthy prefight roll call of the boxing celebrities on hand in the Convention Center, it became apparent they were studiously ignoring Holmes's presence by not introducing him to the crowd of 3,000.
Ring announcer Chuck Hall said he was first told to introduce Holmes as the retired WBC champion, subsequently not to introduce him at all. "Then," Hall said, "I was told to introduce him after the fight as the former champ. I guess they figured they'd have a new champion by then and that would make him a former one. It was embarrassing. Afterward I went to Larry and apologized."
As Holmes looked serenely on, the 25-year-old Page entered the ring. He'd weighed in at a blubbery 239� pounds nearly 30 hours earlier, and it was apparent that he hadn't skipped any meals since then. Page's appetite for ice cream, sodas and junk food is legendary. Somewhere under all that jiggling suet there may be one hell of a tall middleweight.
The 6'3" Page doesn't take kindly to remarks about his girth. "I don't care about my weight," he said Thursday, biting off each word. "I'm not going to let a couple of pounds worry me. I can carry it. I don't have a V-shaped body. So what? I may look puffy, but I'm physically in excellent condition."