Muhammad and Larry : ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series

Directed by Albert Maysles and Bradley Kaplan

ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series showed a cool film targeted at hurt fans & boxing historians alike called MUHAMMAD AND LARRY which chronicled the behind the scenes footage and training sessions leading to the boxing match on October 2, 1980 between the old lion, Muhammad Ali & the new tiger in the ring with the heavyweight title, the Easton Assassin, Larry Holmes. Larry served as a sparring partner in Ali’s younger days and they were very good friends to boot. Most believed that this fight should have never happened as a dilapidated Ali showed signs of father time & other neurological signs of impediment. But, who can deny the former champ if he wants to step in the ring for a cool 8 million? As far as Ali was concerned, the mirror told him that he still looked pretty as he gazed & asked the reflection of himself, who’s the fairest of them all? He felt like he could still pull a rabbit out of the hat & find a way to beat the Easton Assassin.

Here are some pretty interesting quotes from some of Ali confidants and other guests that were in the film including Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, trainer Angelo Dundee,assistant trainer Wali Muhammad, the wife of Larry Holmes, boxing historian Bert Sugar, & the famous cartoonist-writer for the Daily News, Bill Gallo.

Dr. Pacheco: “All the people involved in this fight should of been arrested. This fight was an abomination, a crime.”

Bill Gallo (Daily news cartoonist & writer): “There was no heart in it. All it was, was a glorious man slowly getting chopped down like a big tree.”

Howard Cosell: “Ali is learning that even he cannot be…forever young.”

Larry Holmes: “A lady came up to me and said Hi, I hate you”, Larry asked why? She said because you beat up Muhammad Ali.

Wali Muhammad: “Angelo Dundee had noticed that Ali’s speech & movements had been slower”.

Mrs. Holmes: “Nobody ever talks about Larry Holmes. Look how long it took before this story came out. Larry was always thought of as a shadow of Ali, & not a successor.” “A couple of times, Larry wanted them to stop the fight in the ring because they were friends, close friends.”

Bert Sugar (after the Ali vs Holmes fight): “Ali ran out of miracles. He was a man magician that wasn’t. He had a job but didn’t”

Angelo Dundee: “Ali says the mirror tells him that he’s got a chance, who’s the fairest of them all.”

The consensus was that Ali’s camp, Holmes’ camp, & boxing experts all knew that Ali showed signs of wear & tear, neurological damage, & weight gain. His punch output had slowed down tremendously, & he was going into the ring with the Champ, the Easton Assassin, a far less traveled warrior with lots of pep in his step, & an excruciating stinging jab as a firearm. Holmes knew that it was a lose-lose situation. If he knocked out & beatup the legendary champ, he was supposed to. But if he lost, that would of been devastating. Although, the odds were severly against that outcome. Larry Holmes did not take this fight lightly as Ali is still Ali. This was still his biggest fight yet that would earn him a cool 8 million in 1980. I guess Muhammad Ali was still very confident with his victorious rematch 2 years earlier on 9/15/1978 against Leon Spinks. I’m also very sure, the 8 million he was offered to fight the Easton Assassin didn’t hurt, either.

Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, the fight doctor for Ali, was totally against Ali fighting after the Thrilla’ in Manila with Joe Frazier. Pacheco witnessed training techniques from Ali in the Holmes preparation including taking blows on the side of his body to toughen it up. Pacheco responded, “you can’t toughen up the kidney’s”. After the Holmes massacre on Ali, a reporter asked Pacheco: Were there any questions on why Ali fell apart? The doctor responded: “Ali was talking slower, mumbling his speech, walking slower, & punching less. He can see him falling apart and if he keeps on fighting, he’s going straight to the grave. Pacheco said that after the Thrilla’ in Manila fight, Ali was mumbling his speech.” In July of of 1980 before the fight, Muhammad Ali checked himself into the Mayo clinic for a full report on a renal & neurological exam as stated by the boxing commission. After the exams, the report showed that Ali had a slight degree of missing the target when touching his finger to his nose. It was also reported that he showed signs of short term memory loss. This of course wasn’t made public at the time while the boxing commission continued on with the fight.

No need for me to regurgitate the fight results between Ali vs Holmes in Las Vegas on October 2nd, 1980. All you need to know is that Ali was bruised & battered while Holmes looked pretty like a beast from the Serengeti. Holmes wanted the referee to stop the fight because it was a total abomination & domination for 10 rounds. Angelo Dundee finally stopped the fight after the 10th round in mercy of his wounded warrior who probably could of continued to finish the fight like a zombie.

Some cool tidbits from this film that I didn’t know beforehand was that Muhammad Ali loved to perform card tricks and magic. He performed the take a bite off of the quarter trick & spit it back to recreate a full coin! I’ve seen David Blaine do this trick once before! He definitely was a master of illusion & the slight of hand! In hindsight, this makes total sense! Fast hands & quick movements! Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!

Ali’s quote from the movie: “I’m the master of illusion. Ali is my name, but magic is my game!” Another fun quote from him in the documentary: “Aint’t I pretty..since I’ve grown my mustache, you can call me Dark Gable.”

Larry Holmes seemed like a very dignified heavyweight champ who had an amazing career. He never did rise from the shadows of ali, but proved to be a very fitting successor in taking the heavyweight champ baton from the legend himself. I feel he is one of the most underrated champions of all time. Even Mike Tyson admitted on the “CenterStage” show with Michael Kay on the YES network that had it been the younger Larry Holmes that Tyson fought in the ring, Tyson would of had some trouble with the size, savviness, ring generalship, & jab of the Easton Assassin! A few funny scenes of Larry Holmes from the documentary included him driving in his pimpin’ car, putting in a music cassette in the stereo, & singing to a Kool & a gang “ladies night” instrumental with modified Holmes lyrics! Seconds later, he would then call his wife in some spaceship looking brick shaped mobile phone in the car to warn her that he’s got 3 car loads of the film crew about to invade the house! Ironically, at the end of the movie, 30 years later, a new millenium edition of Larry Holmes came on the screen while driving his pimpin’ car, a little puffier in the face wearing glasses while talking to his wife on his cell phone via bluetooth! The Easton Assassin seems to be at peace with himself & enjoying life to the fullest with his family in Easton, Pennsylvania! Live it up champ! It’s really nice to hear a happy ending in a tale of a professional hurt man! Fairy tale endings for boxers usually don’t go hand in hand.

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