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Pat Putnam
September 29, 1980
The Holmes-Ali title bout once figured to be a grotesque mismatch. It'll be anything but
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September 29, 1980

Better Not Sell The Old Man Short

The Holmes-Ali title bout once figured to be a grotesque mismatch. It'll be anything but

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"Then I'll show you a dope on the rope." Standing, Larry uses Jake to demonstrate how he'll attack Ali. He loops wide hooks to the lower back, he fires a quick right uppercut, and then hooks to the temple with his left. "The uppercut turns his head and sets up both the chin and the temple area for the left hook," Holmes explains. "This is where you hit Ali: high on the side of the head in the area of the temple. That's what'll get him. That, and moving side to side and hooking to his kidneys."

The demonstration complete, Holmes resumes his breakfast. For a moment he appears deep in thought; then: "This is not only Ali's last hurrah, but it could be mine, too. If I lose this fight, I might never fight again."

To the observer, it seems the thought of never fighting again doesn't disturb Holmes, an impression reinforced by the champion's next words. "I traveled with Ali as a sparring partner and I saw all the things I thought I wanted," he says, speaking as much to himself as to those in the room. "But now I've got all those things, and I've learned that they aren't as important as I once thought they were. Sure, I want to beat Ali, to finally get the recognition that I'm the real champ. But I'm not crazy about the limelight. I get up in the morning, I want to be alone. I go out to dinner, I want to be alone. This Ali fight has given me more publicity than I've ever had, more than I want. I belong to the public, but I belong to myself, too."

Holmes leaves part of his breakfast on the table. Hunger—for food or fame or even fortune—is no longer the driving force in his life.

It is the following morning, and Ali, draped with a white bath towel, is lying belly down on the Terrible Table. Lloyd Wells, the keeper of the calisthenics log, is reading aloud newspaper stories about the upcoming fight. Ali half listens as he watches Today on television. Wells finishes a story written by Tommy Lopez in the Las Vegas Review-Journal .

"That it?" Ali asks.

"Yeah," says Wells as he turns through the sports pages. "Wait, here is a story where Don King picks Holmes to win."

"Read it," Ali orders.

"... King said, 'Father Time has caught up with Ali. Yesterday's champ will not be today's champ....' "

There is an angry look on Ali's face and he suddenly rolls over on his back. With a grunt Ali does his first sit-up of the day. There are 13 cruel variations of the exercise that have been given names like the Belly Buster, the Scissors Mambo, the Leg Spin, the Bo Bo Circle and, the worst, the Green Bay Packer Run-'Em-Out-of-Camp Rock.

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