Larry Holmes jackhammered the eyes of Scott LeDoux with his left jab tonight and left him groping blindly about the ring before the referee stopped the bout at 2 minutes 5 seconds of the seventh round and declared Holmes the winner by a knockout.
The undefeated Holmes retained his World Boxing Council heavyweight championship, but he created doubts about his punching power after he had measured LeDoux and unloaded his best shots without flooring him, except for a freak knockdown in the sixth round.
Holmes' frustration at not being able to dispatch LeDoux with a clean knockout was aggravated by gestured criticism from Muhammad Ali at ringside.
Referee Dave Pearl first halted the fight in the seventh round to ask Dr. Jerry O'Brien of the Minnesota Boxing Commission to examine the cut on LeDoux's left upper eyelid.
O'Brien, Pear said, told him that LeDoux couldn't see properly out of his left eye, but the physician thought the challenger could continue. Pearl reported, "I said I was going to stop the bout if LeDoux got hit hard again."
Holmes then hit LeDoux with three lefts and a right to the head, all unanswered by the challenger, and Pearl signaled it was over.
In the sixth round, LeDoux took a short right uppercut from Holmes, almost simultaneously missed with a wild, off-balance roundhouse right and went to the canvas. He appeared to catch his right arm on a rope on the way down, with his eye grazing the rope. When he arose, he contended he had been "thumbed" by Holmes.
Pearl counted to nine over LeDoux before he arose. The referee said afterward that it was the uppercut that put the challenger down. "He was cut inside and over the lid of the left eye," Pearl said. "I never saw a cut like that.
"When he got up, LeDoux said what any fighter would say, 'I'm okay.' He said he was thumbed."
Dr. O'Brien said later that "one more punch would have torn the lid off." That raised the question of why he let LeDoux continue after the bout was stopped, the first time, for his examination.
Before the sixth, Holmes had snapped LeDoux's head back time after time with jabs. A left hook in the second round appeared to raise a welt under the challenger's right eye. But LeDoux took some of Holmes' best blows to the head and indicated to the crowd that they were not bothering him.
In the third round he drove Holmes back with a body punch, but often missed wildly with his awkwardly launched swings and nearly put himself on the canvas with one in the fourth round.
Between the fourth and fifth rounds, Ali began taunting Holmes about his inability to floor LeDoux.
Ali pointed to Holmes for the crowd's benefit and suggested with a demonstration of punches what he would do to Holmes when they fight, in September or early October.
The upshot was that Holmes was taking deliberate aim at his virtually stationary target and putting all of his 214 1/4 pounds into his punches to the head of LeDoux, who weighed 226.
The accented cruelty of it was that it was becoming obvious that LeDoux had no hope of beating Holmes.
The pointless pounding was taking place only hours after middleweight Cleveland Denny had died in Canada as the result of brain damage inflicted when he was knocked out in a preliminary to the Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran title fight June 20.
It was business as usual here. There was an invocation before the bout, but no mention of Denny, or even the customary tolling of the ring bell for a 10-count.
In an earlier bout, a boxer wore one of Holmes' old robes, inscribed "The Easton (Pa.) Assassin."
It was LeDoux's fourth knockout and his ninth loss in 39 bouts. He had won 26, 17 by knockouts, and figured in four draws.
At age 31 his future is just about foreclosed.
He did receive about $300,000 tonight, which will help pay the medical bills of wife Sandy, who is battling cancer. They have two children.
Holmes received about $1 million as he remained unbeaten through 35 bouts and registered his 26th knockout.
His only serious injury was to his ego. He has been disappointed all along at not winning wide acceptance from the boxing crowd, though tonight he tied a record, set by Joe Louis fo seven straight knockouts in title bouts.
He has agonized in the shadow of Ali, even during the former champion's retirement. Ali's continuing postponements in reckoning with Holmes in the ring have irritated Holmes because he is impatient to exorcise the ghost of his tormentor.
The Met Center here was arranged to accommodate 16,200, but with $200 tops a crowd of 6,491 turned out in 96-degree temperature, paying an estimated gross of $340,000 for the bout that was mostly underwritten by the revenue from the ABC telecast.
In the first title fight of the night, Saoul Mamby battered Esteban de Jesus with short left hooks and spearing jabs, knocked him down twice and stopped him in the 13th round to retain the World Boxing Council super lightweight championship.
The end came at 1:13 of the 13th round with de Jesus on the floor in a neutral corner after a six-punch flurry, culminated by a right to the face, put him down for the second time. Referee Rudy Ortega signaled the end without even starting a count.
It was a tremendous all-around performance for the 33-year-old champion who didn't reach the top until this yerar although he has been fighting professionally since 1969. He caught the shorter de Jesus with short jarring hooks when the Puerto Rican challenger tried to get inside. When de Jesus, the former WBC lightweight champion, tried to stay away, Mamby speared him with jarring jabs.
It was not the same de Jesus who handed Roberto Duran his only loss in 1972 and who won the WBC lightweight title in 1976, only to lose it to Duran in 1978.
De Jesus, who weighted 139 1/2, landed some good right hands in the eighth round after being frustrated for the first seven rounds. He got in a couple more good rights in the ninth, but then Mamby, of New York, who weighed the class limit of 140, turned the round around with three short hooks, a right to the head and another hook.
In the 10th and 11th, Mamby scored well with both hands to the head and even got in four or five good shots to the body. Then, in the closing seconds of the 12th round, in which he was scoring well to the head, Mamby dropped de Jesus with right and left hooks. The challenger got up about four and took the mandatory eight.
Mamby swarmed to the attack but de Jesus was saved by the bell. It couldn't save him in the 13th.
Mamby, who got $100,000 for his first national television appearance, was making the first defense of the title he won last Feb. 23 by stopping Kim San-hyun of South Korea in the 14th round at Seoul, South Korea. His record is now 28-4-5 with 14 knockouts.
DeJesus is now 56-5.