NEW YORK — Next Saturday will mark the 30th anniversary of Rocky Marciano's final fight--a ninth-round knockout of former light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore.
To commemorate the event, Larry Holmes will attempt to match Marciano's 49-0 record when he defends his International Boxing Federation heavyweight title against another great 175-pound champ, Michael Spinks, in Las Vegas.
If he succeeds, Holmes will attempt to break the record in either December or January. He is then expected to retire.
"I reincarnated Rocky Marciano," Holmes said. "Before me, you probably forgot him. He was out of the mind.
"It's like Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. No one ever thought about Ty Cobb. Now that's all you hear about."
Spinks (27-0) will try to shorten Holmes career by at least one fight by knocking him off but the undisputed light heavyweight champion is a heavy underdog for the scheduled 15-round bout.
Holmes' weight advantage--more than 50 pounds when both are at ideal fighting weight--is the main reason he is expected to win. No light heavyweight champion has won the heavyweight title, although some of the greatest--Billy Conn, Moore, Bob Foster, etc.--have tried.
Spinks usually fights at around 170 pounds but says he will bulk up by adding "armor" to his 6-2 1/2 frame. But even if he gets up to 200 pounds, he'll give up more than 20 pounds to Holmes.
Spinks refuses to divulge his weight or at what weight he expects to fight. In fact, the subject of weight rankles him. He prefers to discuss age.
"The most I've ever weighed is about 210," he said. "I never tried to gain weight. I pigged out a few times and couldn't get in my clothes, couldn't put on my shoes.
"But I haven't been on a scale in a long time."
Spinks emphasizes that most classic heavyweight vs. light heavyweight bouts--Joe Louis vs. Conn, Joe Frazier vs. Foster and Marciano vs. Moore--featured heavyweight champions in their prime. Holmes, who will turn 36 on Nov. 3, is past his prime. Spinks is 29.
Although history is against Spinks, his promoter Butch Lewis likes to give his own history lesson.
"Heavyweight champions have lost 70 percent of their title fights after having reached the age of 35," said Lewis, who is co-promoting the bout with Don King. "No heavyweight champion has won more than three title fights after turning 35, this is Larry's fourth fight after turning 35."
"Time will be on my side if it goes the distance," Spinks said. "But I'll have to be effective, I'll have to present wear and tear.
"I think he (Holmes) has slowed down tremendously. He doesn't want to move, he wants to preserve all he can. I've got to make him move."
Holmes, who stopped Spinks' brother, Leon, in three rounds in 1981, expects to have less trouble with Michael.
"This will probably be one of my easiest fights," he said. "I just beat a heavyweight (Carl Williams) who was younger than Michael Spinks."
History will be made whatever the outcome Saturday night. Besides becoming the first man to hold both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles simultaneously, Spinks would join Leon to become the first brother combination to hold the heavyweight crown.
Holmes will be relieved once his 50th fight--whomever that is against--is over. Although he's making too much money--an estimated $3 million against Spinks--to complain, he's been looking forward to retirement for several years.
"I wish it was over already," he said. "It's been a long 18 years. I wish it was over so I could chase my wife around the house a little bit more and teach my kid to swim a little more.
"I've accomplished everything. I'm financially secure. My family's happy. If it wasn't for the record, I wouldn't be here today."