At the finish of tonight's blood-letting there was an implicit commentary on the inhumanity of man to his fellow man when the crowd booed referee Dave Pearl for stopping the punishment of Earnie Shavers in the 11th round and awarding a technical knockout to defedning heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, World Boxing Council version.
Shavers had both eyes cut, his right one seriously, and was an exhausted target for Holmes' calmly measured punches to the head when the referee halted the action momentarily and asked the challenger if he was strong enough to continue.
Gallant Shavers nodded his head in the affirmative and turned to meet his foe for a couple more punches before Pearl second-guessed himself and halted the contest with a minute remaining in the round.
Shavers nearly finished Holmes in the seventh round with a massive overhand right to the jaw which flattened the champion, who had to use the ropes to pull himself erect before the count of 10.
Shavers pinned Holmes in a corner and slammed away with his so-called "nuclear bombs." That tactic turned out to be a Pyrrhic sort of short triumph, because the 35-year-old exhausted himself in the effort and reeled like a drunken man for the rest of the fight.
Holmes himself tired badly and slipped to the canvas in the ninth round from a push, coming out of a wild exchange. It was ruled no knockdown.
Holmes suffered an embarrassment in addition to the knockdown. He was exposed as a suspect finishing puncher, particularly in the 10th round when he hit the challenger with 10 unanswered punches but could not floor him.
The champion made a remark after the bout that would have served as a reminder to the booing fans of how badly off Shavers was. "What I got to do, kill him?" Holmes said he asked the referee before Pearl halted the slaughter.
The three judges scored only one round for Shavers, the seventh, for flooring Holmes.
Roberto Duran was awarded a unanimous decision over Zeferino (Speedy) Gonzales of Los Angeles in a 10-round bout.The decision was booed.
The Panamanian was sluggish and tried to atone for it by roughing up Gonzales, with reckless use of his head and shoulders, and clowned when he needed a rest.
Duran's left eye was cut in the eighth round and a gash reopened in the last round. He was scoring occasional heavy shots near the finish but never showed the speed of fist and foot to match those of a Sugar Ray Leonard.
Duran, who now has won 67 of 68 fights, was favored by Judge Art Lurie, 99-92. Judge Harold Buck scored 99-91 and judge Chuck Minker had it 98-92 in the 10-point-must scoring system.
Holmes opened the fight with three jabs and a hook to the head. Shavers also jabbed. Shavers was trying to punch to Holmes' body, but was missing as Holmes kept jabbing. The fight started as expected, Shavers stalking and Holmes moving.
Holmes came out jabbing in the second round. And a little later, after Shavers missed a right, Holmes slammed home a right, left, right.
Holmes had Shavers missing badly in the third round near the bell. Holmes landed a good right to the side of Shavers' head, then speared him with two good jabs and a right to the head.
In the fourth round both fighters got a little rough, and the referee warned them. Holmes landed a good right uppercut along the roeps and two more good rights to the head stunned Shavers.
In the seventh round Holmes went down from a short right hand, but got up immediately, as the crowd roared. Holmes was hurt and Shavers was exhausted.
In the eighth round Shavers was hurt by a left and right. Holmes drove him into the ropes with a series of punches and Shavers almost went down when he missed a punch. A right to the head stunned Shavers.
Unbeaten Holmes successfully defended his WBC title for the fourth time, accounting for his 22nd knockout victory in winning his 32nd bout.
To his credit, Holmes got off the deck like a true champion, but one wondered what might have happened if Shavers had not prematurely spent his energy in his eagerness to finish off the champion after the knockdown.
For all of his talk about being in top condition, as opposed to being out of shape in his disappointing performance before knocking out Mike Weaver in June, Holmes, 29, became so leg weary that he and Shavers looked like the survivors of a dance marathon.
Holmes now has to wait for the outcome of the bout between Gerrie Coetzee of South Africa and John Tate of Knoxville, Tenn., on Oct. 20 in Pretoria before getting a chance to become undisputed champion of the world.
The winner of Coetzee-Tate is expected to claim the World Boxing Association title vacated by Muhammad Ali when he retired.
Shavers went to a Las Vegas hospital to have his right eye stitched.
Referee Pearl explained his delay in stopping the contest: "When I looked at Shavers the first time, his eyes were clear as a bell, but I told him that the next time he got hit without defending himself I was going to end it, and that's what happened."
For Shavers it was the eighth loss in 67 bouts, of which he had won 56 by knockouts. He previously was decisioned in 12 rounds by Holmes. The challenger received $300,000 for tonight's drubbing; Holmes $2.5 million.
Holmes and Shavers battered each other so brutally that their white trunks (which both wore) were stained with blood and soaked with sweat. The carnage topped off an all-star card for the televiers.
It was boxing at its most primitive, but fell short of the appetites of some closet sadists.
A case could be made for stopping the fight in the eighth round, when Holmes recuperated more quickly than his older opponent, even after rising from the knockdown that caused an audible thump when Holmes' 210 pounds crashed to the canvas-covered boards.
Shavers came out reeling from weariness and openly gasping for breath. He could not even defend himself as Holmes would tip up Shavers' head with his stunning left and whip across deliberately cocked right crosses and uppercuts.
As the blow bounced off Shavers' clean-shaven head, Holmes finally tired and had to be helped to his corner at the end of the round and helped up for the bell starting the ninth.
Holmes hit Shavers with six straight punches but lost his balance launching a seventh and slipped to the canvas as Shavers tried to push him away. The bout was inadvertently halted in the 10th when the referee thought the bell had rung, then it was resumed until the merciful bell actually ended the round. It just delayed the inevitable.
Michael Dokes of Akron, Ohio, remained unbeaten through 15 bouts by decisioning former heavyweight Jimmy Young of Philadelphia in a 10-rounder.
It was Young's ninth loss in 34 bouts.
Wilfred Gomez of Puerto Rico took a while to get himself in gear but cut loose with a savage barrage of punches in the 10th round.Referee Richard Green stopped the bout after Carlos Mendoza had been down twice from rights to the head.
Gomez scored his 26th straight knockout as he retained his World Boxing Council super bantamweight championship.