Ali vs. Holmes or Ali vs. time?: ‘30 for 30’ volume 1, episode 4 recap

Muhammad Ali
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This Fourth of July weekend was filled with just about everything I could never have imagined: no barbecues, a whole lot of social distancing and, to round out the back end, no fireworks.

I never thought I’d experience a U.S. holiday without any explosions, but there’s always a first time for everything.

I’m here to give you some hope, though, my fellow Americans — hope that arrives every Wednesday in the form of my own commentary on some of the greatest moments in sports history.

It’s this kind of hope I won’t take away from you, but frankly, it’s also the kind of hope that has a deadline at midnight on a Tuesday.

There is a stern duty to uphold, and I won’t let you down.

So for this and so many other reasons, continue to wear your masks and follow social distancing protocols. Hope that your fellow Americans also do their part, so we can get those barbecues and bright-colored explosions back.

As for the fourth episode?

Let’s get after it.


Volume 1, Episode 4: “Muhammad and Larry” 

Rating: 7.9/10

I took to Twitter before writing this piece on the Muhammad Ali vs. Larry Holmes fight to jump-start my inspiration, and in my feed were some Ali quotes courtesy of Bleacher Report. One really stuck with me.

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

Fair enough, sir — we all have a job, and mine is to blog about your endeavors even if they contradict your own words. I don’t find the whole “rhymes and riddles” trash talk of Ali’s very entertaining.

Impressive? Most definitely — I still can’t find a word to rhyme with orange, but I’m positive Ali, with all his prosey pretentiousness, could find about five.

I don’t know if the filmmakers or boxers hit all the right notes in this documentary for me as Mr. Trump and his own fight against virtually every figurehead in football from the last episode did.

That being said, here we are at the fourth episode, looking at two tremendous, champion boxers and men in and outside of the ring.

The level of camaraderie is a sight we don’t often see today in sports, and I commend the filmmakers for presenting the viewers with that.

Regardless, this fight was in and out a death wish for Ali.

I don’t know any boxer, retired or not, who would, at 38 years old, willingly step into a ring with the defending World Boxing Council heavyweight champion.

Mike Tyson is teasing a return, but against current world champion Tyson Fury? No chance.

Holmes was only offered $6 million as the then-titleholder, as if he was some sort of underdog, while Ali was offered $8 million and a shot at the title. That gap is unbelievable.

Ali had clearly lost a step, physically and mentally.

His doctor, Ferdie Pacheco, even acknowledged this and left his camp in 1977 due to Ali’s decision to continue fighting even given his clear mental decline.

Holmes, however, was almost relaxed that he got $6 million to beat up a man nearly in his 40s.

By watching the sparring tapes before the match, it’s obvious that Holmes was faster, stronger and more equipped to win. Ali’s drive was admirable and his resume untouchable, but the naive mentality that he could take on Holmes is where I blame the ones closest to him.

The fact that he convinced everyone to believe he could really beat Holmes is unreal to me, but with him being the celebrity he was, it’s no wonder people would squeeze everything they could out of him for profit.

Cornerman Wali Muhammad even said on camera that he believed Ali was equivalent in skill to a boxer 10 (yes, 10) years younger than Ali at the time of the fight — a knee-slapper of humongous proportions.

There’s really not much to say about Holmes, which, ironically, is a topic everyone discusses in the documentary. He was a champion living in his legendary challenger’s shadow, and he never reached the heights of stardom that Ali did.

For reasons I can’t fathom, Holmes justified why he didn’t need the limelight with a lengthy description of the house he was building, explaining every dimension of the mansion’s layout in detail. Holmes’ lack of an entertainment presence outside the ring? Check.

In July 1980, a few months before the fight, Ali absolutely failed his neurological exam but was cleared anyway by the Nevada Athletic Commission.

Today, this, of course, is a big no-no, but hey, it’s Vegas! The people wanted their fight, even though someone’s brain was at stake.

Two weeks before the fight, Ali was unsoundly prescribed thyroid medication, which he grossly misused leading up to the sound of the first bell.

This was the beginning of the end of Muhammad Ali, a boxer graced with unfathomable talent and delusions of grandeur.

Fight night finally came, and to no one’s surprise — except maybe Wali Muhammad’s — Ali was obliterated.

A year later, Ali retired. Less than three years later, he developed Parkinson’s disease, and people started to wonder if it was a result of the Holmes fight.

Uh … yeah?

Maybe I would risk fighting the world heavyweight champion right now instead of at 38. I’d probably never feel my face again, but $8 million still sounds pretty good.

Oh, and I almost forgot — Holmes remains one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time and is doing fine now.

Can’t lie, though — he is hard to remember.

Lucas Perkins-Brown covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected].