OK now, we will be running smack dab into the 40th anniversary of the WBC title defense by Kenny Norton against Larry Holmes this June 9th, 1978, oddly coinciding with the date of the Holmes vs Gerrie Cooney fight 4 years later that you can review here:
Holmes vs Norton was a showcase of different stylistic skills clashing in a good fight, but perhaps not a great fight in that neither fighter was hurt badly though Holmes got hit flush with a perfect right hand shocker and Norton sustained a minor cut over his left eye. Without revealing the result that most boxing fans already know, I will suspend that result for now so that new fight fans may judge for themselves by my round by round description with my final score and analysis of the fight and official scores.
The fight was held @ Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the premium fight venue of the day. What happened to fights at Caesars? I can’t recall the last fight there, probably in the 90s. This fight was held in an indoor, climate controlled venue with the crowd cheering the entrance of both fighters, belying that Norton was a popular icon by then and Holmes relatively unknown. The fans were a happy bunch probably because of good ticket prices additionally padded out by freebies. OK, a sad disclaimer to the broadcast that I listened to was announced by Fat Bob Sheridan still early in his career, and he did not disappoint my expectations, nary a single moment of silence, presumably during the whole of the broadcast. I say presumably, because as much as I wanted, indeed needed to listen to the resounding acoustics of flush punches landing that add much insight into how momentum shifts in a good fight, they sadly become background noise to the nonstop blast of irrelevant garbage dumps of verbiage that Sheridan became well noted for, so I was forced to mute him early to concentrate on the fight.
Before I shut him down, Fat Bob did make himself useful in coming up with a little jewel I knew nothing about. Norton was obviously the substantial betting favorite, but the last few days saw a surge of betting on Holmes who had yet to beat a top 10 fighter as Norton was. All that really needs to be added was that, cough, cough, YES Virginia, you were right! Don King was the promoter.
Mills Lane was the referee who saw little action since the fight was fought almost entirely within the rules with few clinches. Watching Norton warm up was like watching an Olympic decathlete champ that by potential he could have been but for the fates shifting his life to boxing where he made much acclaim. He placed 2nd as I recall in the early Superstars athletic competition ostensibly designed to measure overall athletic ability against a Who’s Who list competitors drawn from a dozen professional sports. Well done Kenny!
Rd 1: 10-10 Even/ Norton opens with the first punch, a jab and spars/jabs with Holmes in reverse jabbing. They pic some shots and exchange a few shots working their defenses for all they could. Good opening round with plenty of action even if nothing was of a telling nature.
Rd 2: 10-9 Holmes/ Norton jab and spar. Holmes pic shots and jab and then Right. Norton with body shots and Holmes in reverse. This moment would prove to be the overriding theme of the fight. SHUT UP FAT BOB SHERIDAN-this the moment I muted the fool. Shame that but it had to be done or I would’ve put my fist through the screen and done it manually.
Rd 3: 10-10 Even/ Some opening back and forth exchanges. Good pace, but both pic now. Big Norton Left to the body.
Rd 4: 10-9 Norton/ Norton with 1-2. Holmes in reverse while jibberjabbing flickers. Norton slip Holmes’ punches to land a beautiful counter left. Both pic now with some exchanges with Norton hooking Holmes. Even fight on my cards thus far with not much between the fighters to chose from.
Rd 5: 10-9 Norton/ Both pic shots. Norton Left to body, then Right and Big Right causing Holmes to clinch. Norton Right, a very busy fight at distance. Norton slow combination lands and Holmes in reverse dancing.
Rd 6: 10-9 Norton/ Holmes starts in reverse while Norton is very busy. Norton Left and then big flurry and more, cutting the ring off and taking it to Holmes. Nobody hurt yet, but Holmes dances around firing empty jabs to cater to the crowd and judges in his Ali imitation. Best round so far and all Norton.
Rd 7: 10-9 Norton/ Norton press forward jabbing. Good stuff and then Right/Left to body. Holmes dance. WTF? How can you win a fight just dancing and prancing around? Holmes nothing while Norton is steady to his body. No sharpness in Holmes at all.
Rd 8: 10-9 Norton/ Exchange favors Holmes, but Norton presses to send Holmes on the run. Norton solid work exchanging with Holmes against the ropes.
Rd 9: 10-9 Norton/ Norton pressing with Holmes in reverse, near most of the fight thus far. Both pic shots, but big Norton Right clearly shakes Holmes, and then another. Holmes forced into a fight.
Rd 10: 10-9 Norton/ Odd that the rest periods always show Norton in his corner, I’d gather because nobody knows Holmes, so what fans would want to bother with him? Holmes dancing and flickering while Norton landing solid shots. Holmes runs while Norton steady shots as she goes.
Rd 11: 10-9 Norton/ Norton with minor cut over Left eye, no biggie. Holmes pic his jab as Norton steadily presses. Norton Left/Right hooks. Holmes runs and dances. What the fight is showing thus far is that Norton has the Ali style down pat. Holmes to the ropes as Norton straffs.
Rd 12: 10-9 Norton/ Norton has proved to keep a good pace and in great shape. Holmes jabs, but Norton with solid attack to put Holmes on the run. Norton big rights. Holmes still game, but no arsenal to fight back with. Norton in control of the ship, steady as she goes captain.
Rd 13: 10-9 Holmes/ Norton press while Holmes game, but in reverse with empty exchange. Holmes Right and another. Good exchange now with Norton coming back, but Holmes really lets loose, yet Norton continues to pressure him. Holmes best round and maybe the overall best round of the fight thus far.
Rd 14: 10-9 Norton/ Holmes pic shots as both look tired now. Good exchange favors Norton with Holmes in reverse. Norton steady work. Now teeing off as Holmes looks drunked out. Could almest be scored a 10-8 round for Norton, but they both started very tired.
Rd 15: 10-9 Norton/ Touch gloves as is tradition for the last round. Norton Right and then another and stays busy. Holmes Right, but in reverse. Norton traps Holmes on the ropes. Holmes game with a good chin and offers up flurry, but Norton still punching away.
Final bell tolls, so I turn the volume back up to hear Fat Bob say the fight is too close to call. Hah, not on my cards. Fat Bob also says Holmes camp is in celebration proves they think they won. Ah so, not so fast Fat Bob. Ever consider the Holmes camp is celebrating that he survived a fight he was clearly getting pummeled in? Norton in the more professional camp shows no distress at all. Real pros don’t celebrate premature wins though perhaps that has changed for the worse, that of needing to put on a cheap show of bravado for the judges, and whoever wins that contest wins the fight as opposed to the actual judging of the fight.
Official scores Holmes 143-142 x 2 and Norton 143-142, a single spare point split decision win for Holmes out of the total of 855 total points cast by the 3 judges, or a 0.0012 % margin of victory if you want to contemplate the utter ridiculousness of the fight business’ 10 point must system.
My scores by rounds were Norton 11-Holmes 2-Even 2 that tranlates by 10 must math into 148 for Norton and 139 for Holmes, a wide win for Norton. Now if I allow my Even rounds to be for Holmes that I use to better understand the duplicity of boxing and the usual disputes that this fight generated since Norton official won over 1 of the 3 total judges, that gives a closer fight, 146 for Norton and 141 for Holmes. Why am I so off by the official scores you might ask? I refer you to the big late money surge on Holmes, something that is always suspicious by bookies, often causing them to stop taking money on bets to insure that if a fight is fixed, they don’t take too bad a financial loss. Boxing as a shady business is what it is with Don King the former numbers runner for the mob and convicted murderer more or less running, or ruining that era of boxing as some might further claim.
There was no big money rematch that the public clamored for. Instead Don King spewed out his usual nonsensical non sequiturs of grandiosity. When push finally came to shove, King instead pulled his bait and switch to serve up the public the tasty farce of Alfredo Evangelista, probably due to Norton seriously tearing Holmes up in their fight requiring surgery and rehabilitation, a torn bicep ominously being mentioned, likely why Holmes spent so much time on the run.
Norton’s purse was $2.3 million and Holmes’ was a paltry $300,000 that reflected his relative nonexistence in the fight biz of his previous 7 years as Muhammad Ali’s apprentice. I keep hearing how it was a great fight, but there wasn’t much ebb and flow from round to round. The much older and more shopworn Norton kept steady pressure on the younger, fresher Holmes to put him in reverse for a large majority of the fight when Holmes was not dancing like some kind of tamed bear at a circus. Hay-Ho, maybe that’s just stubborn ol’ me afflicted by my traditional diehard boxing oversight I grew up in, the only reason I took up writing to begin with.
The fighters and the fans weren’t always getting a fair shake, so I meant to document boxing from a brief insider point of view voluntarily moving to outsider’s point of view since the mainstream boxing media wouldn’t, or more probably couldn’t much like the tabloid mainstream press of today. In this example on the official cards, I feel Norton was robbed, not only of his title, but most certainly of his deserved lucrative rematch that the public clamored for…only in boxing folks.