Someone quipped at a news conference today that Muhammad Ali may change his mind about retiring after seeing how unimpressive Larry Holmes was Friday night before knocking out Mike Weaver in the 12th round.
"If Ali does change his mind, he's got me to contend with first," said Earnie Shavers, who attended Holmes' session with the media and heard that his scheduled bout with the World Boxing Council champion on Sept. 14 in East Rutherford, N.J., may be postponed.
"It isn't official yet," Holmes said, "but I have asked for more time to check my health."
Holmes had a husky voice and a swollen left eye and said he is going to take a few weeks off and "leave it up to the doctors."
"I have been examined by three or four doctors and some think it may be my tonsils, and they may have to come out," Holmes said. "My throat gets like this after every fight. I could hardly talk after last night's bout."
Holmes called Weaver a "dirty fighter" and said the challenger thumbed him in the left eye in the first round. "I couldn't see for the first three rounds. My eyes were blurry. I was seeing three people."
Holmes said he complained to referee Harold Valan in the first round about Weaver "thumbing" and Richie Giachetti, Holmes' manager, said he complained to Valan in the second round. Valan warned Weaver about it in the 10th round.
"Weaver stopped Bernard Mercado (of Argentina) by thumbing his eyes. They hemorrhaged. Weaver is a dirty fighter. He also pulled my head down with one hand and hit me with the other.
"In the fourth round he thumbed me three or four times in both eyes and then hit me with an overhand right to my left ear and all I could hear was "boom-boom.""
Holmes slipped to the canvas in the fourth as if from a delayed effect from that punch but it was not ruled a knockdown. The champion was asked if it really was a knockdown. "Hey, I'm the champion," he said. "If it had been a knockdown I would have taken the count. Once I said to Weaver, "Hey, man, I'm the champion. If you're going to fight dirty, I'll fight dirty." He apologized, he always apologized."
Weaver was asked after the fight about the charges of thimbing and said, "I'm sorry."
Holmes said, "Weaver hit me hard enought to ring my ear, but he doesn't hit as hard as Shavers. Most fighters fade around the seventh or eighth round, I get stronger. I made up my mind in the 10th round "I am going to fight till this guy falls." This is what I'm going to do to you, too, Earnine," Holmes said to Shavers.
Shavers said, "You just be there in September and you can talk all you want."
Holmes said, "I made a lot of mistakes. I learned a lot. I might have taken Weaver a little lightly, but I trained hard. I got to go back to the drawing board to be 110 percent. I don't want to come up braggadocio, but I do know how to fight. I know how to win, against Weaver, Shavers, Ali, any of them."
Promoter Don King was asked about the contracts with Shavers and the ABC television network for the Sept. 14 date, on which Roberto Duran was signed to fight Jose (Pepino) Cuevas of Mexico for the World Boxing Association welterweight title.
"A postponement would not be a new miracle in boxing. Contracts mean nothing, Larry's health comes first," King said. Afterward, King indicated that he regarded Holmes as being a typically overwrought, emotional athlete the day after having his pride scuffed and likely would keep the appointment with Shavers.
At one juncture, Holmes threatened to leave his audience when the questions centered on Cuevas-Duran, as they had last week about Duran and Carlos Palomino, while ignoring the heavyweight champion.
Holmes was asked if he resented the chang of "Weaver-Weaver-Weaver" when the challenger took charge for several rounds. "No," he said, "because when I was killing Weaver they changed to "Larry-Larry, Larry.""
Despite Holmes' eye trouble in the first three rounds, the officials awarded him all three and had him ahead for all 11 rounds: referee Valan, 107-101, Judge Tony Castellano, 106-102, and judge Harold Lederman, 106-103.