If Larry Holmes has anything to worry about, it is his ears. The undefeated Holmes defends his half-championship against Ossie (Jaws) Ocasio in a 15-round heavyweight fight Friday night.
They call Ocasio "Jaws" because in his second pro fight three years ago he bit an earlobe off a man and then knocked him out.
"The guy hit Ocasio low six times," said the Puerto Rican's trainer, the legendary Honest Bill Daly, 82, who has worked with Jack Dempsey and Archie Moore. "Nobody's hit him low six times since."
The Holmes-Ocasio fight for the World Boxing Council championship (the World Boxing Association recognizes Muhammad Ali as champion) is only mildly interesting.
More attention is given to a preliminary matching Ken Norton and Earnie Shavers, longtome contenders looking for another title shot.
Both bouts will be televised nationally (WJLA-TV-7) starting at 8:30 p.m.
The Norton-Shavers winner has been promised a bout with Holmes, assuming the half-champ masticates Jaws for his 30th victory.
Both preliminary fighters already have lost to Holmes.
Homes, 29, a 214-pound strongman with a numbing jab, beat Shavers in 12 rounds a year ago. Three months later, he won the WBC championship in 15 rounds over Norton.
Norton is the favorite Friday night in what is expected to be a slugfest. At 33, with 41 victories and five defeats, the 225-pound Norton still has not learned to retreat in the ring. He is an ungainly plodder, his right foot splayed out behind him.
He may be just what Shavers is looking for. George Foreman, when he ruled the world, destroyed Norton by wading in and dropping heavy hands on the ex-marine's face. Shavers is good at that, too, having scored 54 knockouts in his 56-7-1 won-lost-drew career.
Shavers, 34, weighed 210 at today's weigh-in, a subdued affair judged by the raucous standards of an Ali weigh-in.
Not that Homes didn't try.
Photographers posed Ocasio next to Holmes. Already four inches taller than the 5-foot-11, 207-pound Ocasio, Holmes towered a foot above him by virtue of standing on the scales.
So Ocasio stretched up on his toes and opened wide his mouth, moving it toward Holmes' right ear, as if to have a late lunch.
Holmes must not have known Ocasio's penchant for earlobes, or perhaps he misjudged Jaws' line of attack as directed toward his neck. Anyway, he said, "Anybody got a cross for this vampire?"
People who understood English laughed.
Ocasio, who speaks no English, bared his teeth all the more.
"If Holmes hits him low six times," Honest Bill Daly said, "my guy will bite his ear off."
Honest Bill, who came by his sobriquet the way 400-pounders become "Tiny," was not very convincing when he said Ocasio has a chance to beat Holmes. Ocasio is undefeated in 13 fights and earned this one by whipping Jimmy Young twice in seven months on national TV.
"If my guy stood up straight like an Indian cigar sign, he'd get flattened," said Daly, who first laid eyes on Ocasio four years ago when the kid, then 17, walked in off a New York street and said he wanted to fight.
"He's gotta bob and weave. He's gotta crowd Holmes, throw punches underneath. Dempsey did that. He can't stand back on the ropes and let Holmes jab him. Holmes has a murderous jab."
Ocasio will be paid $250,000, about one-fourth Holmes' pay. "That's making him rich fast," Daly said to someone who suggested that Ocasio, undefeated in only 13 fights, might be rushing it to get in with Holmes. "Even if he did lose, he's losing to a helluva heavyweight champion."