On Sunday, December 13, 2015, Larry Holmes got his long overdue tribute from the town calls home and he made famous all over the world. Easton, Pennsylvania’s riverfront Scott Park was the scene of a celebration honoring the heart of a legend.
He was a sparring partner in Muhammad Ali’s training camp and eventually became one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. He has a record of 69 wins (44 by KO) and 6 losses and is third (20) behind Joe Louis (25) and Wladimir Klitschko (22) in successful title defenses.
From 1978 to 1983, he was the WBC heavyweight champ and the IBF champ from 1983 to 1985. Holmes’ victorious 1982 bout with Gerry Cooney in Las Vegas holds the record for highest attendance at a boxing match in Nevada history (29, 214). His left jab is legendary and his right was just as lethal. His nickname, “Easton Assassin,” was well earned.
After a short parade down Larry Holmes Drive, many paid tribute on stage and shared stories of the Champ as a boxer, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, and a family man.
My favorite speaker was Gene Kilroy, Muhammad Ali’s former business manager. In the clip below you can hear him talk about Holmes’ first time in Ali’s training camp and a trip they took to visit a nearby prison.
And Don King was there with his little flags. He walked with Larry and Diane Holmes.
Don. Don. Don.
Sitting on stage, between a politician and a preacher, King was exactly where you’d expect him to be — literally and figuratively.
And he did not disappoint.
The audio quality is dodgy because I was right near the on-stage speakers and on the edge of a packed crowd, but you can hear him tell his tale of going from a numbers man from Cleveland to an ambassador for peace throughout the world, and his new role as a fighter for women’s freedom from the yoke of oppression. Not kidding. He managed to name drop great women leaders, Michael Jackson, and J.C. Calhoun in the same speech.
To quote the man himself, “Only in America.”
But we were there not for Don King,; we were there for Larry Holmes. The street bearing his name was closed to traffic and people packed the park across from the two buildings he built to stimulate and redevelop the Easton economy. Outside Champ’s Corner, Holmes’ old restaurant, the sidewalk was filled with men in masonic regalia (the Champ is a mason) and the patio was packed with supporters.
The Easton Area High School marching band played Holmes’ old entrance music, “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” before he addressed the crowd, nearly two hours after ceremonies commenced.
Thanks to the two cranky kids we had with us, we left before he finished his speech and didn’t get to see the unveiling of a statue erected in his honor. As we walked toward the car, we did get to hear Larry Holmes participate in one of the best Festivus rituals: the airing of grievances. I didn’t capture the audio (thanks, kids), but you can see the whole ceremony on Youtube.
All in all, it was a great day (seriously. 70 degrees with only a slight cloud cover in the middle of December? How’d Larry swing that?) to see people of all stripes to come out and honor one of history’s greatest heavyweight champ for all the good he did in and out of the ring.