Larry Holmes showed the world he has a destructive right hand as he demolished challenger Leon Spinks tonight with a series of crushing rights for a third-round technical knockout in their World Boxing Council heavyweight championship fight.
Then he stood before the television cameras and declared: "I am, I am somebody."
The heavyweight champion put on a terrifying display of power that left the challenger groggy, hanging on the ropes in his own corner and unable to defend himself while he took blow after blow of measured right hands. $ "The referee didn't do his job," Holmes said afterward. "I'm not in there to hurt people."
It wasn't until the challenger's trainer, Del Williams, heaved a white towel into the ring at 2?34 of the round that referee Richard Steele of Los Angeles called a halt to the destruction.
Spinks had already fallen once to a stunning right hand. The withering barrage came after he got up.
Holmes weighed in at 212 1/4, Spinks 200.
Spinks had held his own in the first two rounds, charging bull-like after the champion, who sought to hold him off with long left jabs.
But early in the third round, Holmes rocked Spinks with a looping left hook.
He pursued Spinks to the challenger's corner and began pummeling him.
Spinks went down for a nine count from one hard straight right, and got up groggily. Steele loosed Holmes' fury on him again and the champion pounded at will, lining up each blow as Spinks hung helplessly on the ropes.
It was reminiscent of Ken Norton's one-round beating at the hands of Gerry Cooney, when Norton slumped in the corner and blows rained on him.
Holmes said that as he was punching he could hear Spinks' brother Michael shouting to the referee to stop the fight. Simultaneously, Hiawatha Brown, the Michigan boxing chairman, was waving to Steele to call his attention to the cornerman's pleas.
Then the white towel came in, in the classic fighters' sign of submission, and it was over for Spinks, 12,000 fans in Joe Louis Arena and a national television audience.
Spinks' plan had been to carry the fight to Holmes by boring in close, where the 31-year-old champion's reach advantage and jolting jab would be less telling.
He succeeded early in the fight and landed several wild, generally ineffective roundhouses, while Holmes worked to keep the fight in the middle of the ring. The champion never seemed concerned and said after the fight he had taken no serious punches. "He thumbed me once," Holmes said.
Before the fight, Holmes had called Spinks a street fighter: "When you hit him, all he knows is to hit you back. He'll have his chin up and I'll pick it off."
It was Spinks' brawling that finally cost him in the third round, and his willingness and heart couldn't carry against superior strength and skill.
Holmes was delirious as he greeted the press.
"There is no one in the world who can beat me today," he said. "If you keep sending people in there with me, you're going to get someone hurt."
His remarks were clearly directed at the most conspicuous member of the fight crowd in the audience, the undefeated Cooney, who is ranked the No. 1 contender by both the WBC and World Boxing Association.
"If he came down here today," Holmes said, "I'd punch him in the mouth for free. He is deformed. He only has one hand. Today, I proved I have both hands. $ "Cooney never fought nobody. If the man was black, he wouldn't be nowhere," said Holmes, who with this victory improved his career mark to 38-0. It was his 10th title defense.
Promoter Don King was prancing around the arena announcing he was offering $5 million to Cooney to fight the winner of tonight's bout, but Cooney's people said the offer was too late -- they had already signed to put Cooney against WBA champ Mike Weaver in October.
Holmes was clearly at the top of his game with this victory. He had been taken the 15-round distance by plodding Trevor Berbick, his last outing, April 11, but since then has been training almost nonstop under his new trainer Eddie Futch.
"His right hand is better than people think," Futch said. "He showed that today."
"I was landing right hands just from the beginning," said Holmes. "They should have stopped the fight after the knockdown. I was measuring him. You could see I could do whatever I wanted."
Then the champion went into a war dance with his brother and cornerman Jake.
"Thirty-eight fights," he shouted. "Thirty-eight wins. Twenty-eight knockouts. I'm bad. I know I'm bad. And you know I'm bad. I can beat anybody.