Boxing : Heartbreak Holmes

Larry Holmes has never been diplomatic, and at 47 he is not about to change. "I'm going to get on the aeroplane tomorrow and bare my arse out the window to show what I think of Denmark," he said in the dressing-room at Copenhagen on Friday night after a thoroughly bad split- decision loss to Brian Neilsen had denied him even a fingerhold on the world heavyweight championship which the Dane's International Boxing Organisation belt represented.

The words were angry enough, but he uttered them with the weary resignation of a man who has already faced too many disappointments in his 25 years in the ring, as if his "I wuz robbed" speech was as much part of the pre- ordained ritual as the verdict which provoked it.

He is a prickly but basically likeable man, and he deserved better than the rough justice meted out by two of the three judges. One myopic official, an American, managed to give his compatriot just one of the 12 rounds, and scored seven even. That kind of indecision smacks of incompetence. This was underlined by the fact that the judge who voted for the former champion, Erkki Maronen from Finland, once boxed for the European title under the management of Neilsen's promoter Mogens Palle.

I made the veteran an overwhelming winner by 117-112 as Holmes, giving his best performance since his close loss to Oliver McCall in 1995, outboxed and outmanoeuvred the lumbering Dane. His jab was snapping into Neilsen's face as crisply and regularly in the 12th round as in the first, and a less durable opponent would surely have crumbled from the battering he took from Holmes's right uppercuts and hooks. By the end, Neilsen's homely face was a mass of minor bumps and grazes, testimony to the unerring accuracy of the Holmes jab, while the loser was unmarked.

"Why do they always do this to me?" Holmes asked plaintively as he sat with his wife, Diane, and an entourage - including two managers and an attorney - which is still of champion-sized proportions.

"I am a nice guy, but I keep getting screwed. If Neilsen won three rounds, he is lucky - even Ray Charles could see that. We both worked hard for this fight [Neilsen had shed 40lb in training] and if he deserved to win then he should get it. I'm a pro, and I have no problem with that.

"I was going to make the IBO famous, like I did for the IBF when I took their title, but then they kick my arse like this. I know it's only the IBO belt, but my son was looking forward to taking it back home on the plane with us, and I'm pissed off for him."

Self-delusion has never been part of Holmes's baggage, and the brutal honesty in which he expresses himself is as endearing to the rest of us as it is frequently embarrassing for him. "I'll lodge a protest," he said before adding with typical candour, "but who's gonna give a shit?"

And that, pithily put, is Holmes's problem. The fight was a massive commercial success in Denmark, and the country's first pay-per-view event drew around 50,000 subscribers paying pounds 25 each. Palle sold TV rights to China, Australia and a handful of European countries, but not, significantly, to the United States. Ringside seats were changing hands for pounds 500, more than three times their face value, and the show was sold out in November.

Holmes is a hot ticket in Denmark but old news at home, where the real power lies in world boxing. He will fight on, and so long as he can earn $500,000 with consummate ease as he did in Copenhagen, it is hard to offer a convincing reason why he shouldn't.

"I was supposed to fall down, but I didn't," Holmes said. " The thing is, I know how to fight and these young guys [Neilsen is 31], they don't."

He has a point, but in Holmes's case there is another dimension to the argument. He is slipping inexorably into the "good opponent" role - a name worth beating for aspiring contenders - and the man who dominated his sport for almost a decade deserves a better epitaph than that.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice