Larry Holmes had suffered cuts before, but never one that had actually bled. He was used to having his purse cut, having long fought for promoter Don King, but he'd never actually bled anything but green until James (Bonecrusher) Smith cut him last November.
Holmes managed to stop Smith and remain undefeated in his 46 fights, retaining his International Boxing Federation heavyweight championship along the way. But anybody who saw Holmes dripping blood that night will long remember a man positively freaked by indications of his own mortality.
According to the venerable Eddie Futch, the man who comes aboard in the final weeks of preparation to work Holmes' corner, Smith delivered a lesson that Holmes learned well. Holmes will not be surprised this time. At least he won't bleed badly again.
Futch, who has joined Holmes for Friday's IBF title fight with David Bey in Las Vegas, said: "Larry has set himself on retiring and he wants to go out in fine style. He really wants to make an impressive showing. Hey, he came early this time."
Futch said it hadn't been so much a matter of Holmes taking Smith lightly as it was the distractions Holmes had been contending with through a year of inactivity.
"He was in and out of the gym and had all kinds of legal complications," he said. "It just wasn't a good climate. These things are much easier when you have no other distractions."
For that reason, Futch hopes that Holmes, 35, really does retire after this fight.
"I'm hoping it's his last one," he said. "Not because he couldn't continue but because he has other things he wants to do."
Holmes has a restaurant, a sporting goods store and a hotel near his home in Easton, Pa.
"He's become quite a businessman and I'm afraid of his division of attention," Futch said.
Should Holmes get cut in this fight, he will at least get more attention in the corner. In addition to Percy Richardson, Holmes will be attended by a stand-by cut man, Don Tocco. Neither, of course, will do much good if Don King comes around after the fight.
Lots lighter than he was: Bey will be at about 225 pounds when he challenges Holmes for his IBF title. It wasn't so long ago that he weighed 290. Bey, 29, had to overcome an appetite for Italian food to drop from the super-heavyweight division.
Boxing Notes The Olympic Auditorium figures to give local boxing a different look under the direction of matchmaker Jimmy Gilio. Gilio, who has promoted locally for years, thinks it might be interesting to bring in Oriental fighters and match them with Mexican stars, the traditional fare at the Olympic. . . . The so-called "Journey to the Stars," a co-promotion by Don King and the Forum, was set back to April 1. The reason given for the week's postponement was Azumah Nelson's fatigue. Nelson, who will defend his World Boxing Council featherweight title against Marcos Villasana, was tired by a victory tour of Ghana, his home country, after winning the title from Wilfredo Gomez. The card otherwise remains unaffected. Julio Cesar Chavez is still set to defend his WBC super featherweight title against three-time title chaser Ruben Castillo. . . . Al Goosen, head of the Ten Goose clan, now has the license to promote in Reseda at the Country Club. First scheduled bout is Olympic alternate Michael Nunn vs. Frank Ramirez, March 26. . . . Look for King to give World Boxing Assn. heavyweight champion Greg Page some work in Buffalo in late April. Page will probably fight the winner of Friday's Tony Tubbs-James (Bonecrusher) Smith fight. . . . Remember when the bantamweight division used to be one of the most exciting in boxing? Now that WBC champion Albert Davila is retiring because of back problems, the division will fall to the likes of Freddie Jackson and Gaby Canizales, the No. 1 and 2 contenders. It's not going to be like the old days.