Re: Sonny Liston vs. Larry Holmes
I wouldn't go with an early KO. It's a real tough fight, though. Holmes had a lot in his arsenal to give Liston problems. The key is the jab. In 2005, I interviewed Billy Joiner. Billy started training fighters when he was a teenager in the 1950s with none other than (the great) Doc Broadus. Billy lost to Ali in the amateurs by 1 point. Very slick fighter....and smart.
Billy didn't have a good pro career. Too many short notice fights....all the time. But...Billy is the only guy to go the distance with Liston in Liston's post-Ali career. He lost the first on a TKO. Billy told me training was real bad for that fight. In the second fight, Billy went the distance. Billy---who is now about 70---is totally unmarked and was completely and totally lucid when I interviewed him. He winced when we talked about Liston. He said not only was he powerful, he was a smart fighter, too. He said the Liston jab was like another guy's right hand.
When Billy was closing his career, he fought Holmes on short notice in Puerto Rico. He lost to him in a few rounds. Here, however, is what he said when I asked him to compare the Liston jab to Holmes' jab (keep in mind that Larry was pretty young when he fought Billy).
Billy Joiner: Well, I won the National Golden Gloves in 1962. I started my pro career in 1963. For the first match with Liston I wasn’t at home training like I was supposed to. I was training, but I went to New York to train. The accommodations, my meals, and everything weren’t right. So that had some bearing on the fight. I had sparred with Liston before I fought him, though. I knew what I had to do in order to survive (We both smile and laugh loudly). Liston was a good fighter. He was a great fighter, and a very strong fighter. I came in at about 195 pounds. Liston was something that it was survival for me back then, and the chance to make a little money. In the second fight, I was home training. I was more relaxed. My Dad was there, and that made a big difference.
Question: You fought Larry Holmes in 1975 when he was starting to come up the ranks (Billy was 37 at the time of that fight). Who had the better jab: Liston or Holmes?
Billy Joiner: Oh, no doubt. Liston. If I had two weeks to train for Holmes, I would’ve beaten him. I hadn’t been in the gym in a year. I got a call right before Christmas, and was asked if I wanted to go to Puerto Rico. I had four kids, and I didn’t know anything about Holmes. So I went. I jumped on him right from the beginning. I wasn’t in condition. But no, there really wasn’t a comparison between him at that time and Liston at the time I fought him. Liston was much stronger than Holmes. I could walk right through Holmes, but I got tired. Had I been in condition, it wouldn’t have been a contest for that particular fight.
Question: Holmes kind of threw a rising up jab (I motion from the waist upward), whereas Liston threw a straight, telephone pole-like jab.
Billy Joiner: Right.
Question: How did you defend differently against the different types of jabs?
Billy Joiner: Holmes hadn’t really seasoned yet at that time in his career. So, I would just walk right through him. Liston was different. His jab was like getting hit with another man’s right hand. My head was red.
Question: Liston had an 84” reach. Was the reach that big of a factor with him?
Billy Joiner: It’s a difference if you know what you’re doing. He knew what he was doing, so I couldn’t really get close to him like I wanted to.
Question: Of all of the guys you fought in your career—Zora Folley, Holmes, Blue Lewis, Liston, etc.--- who was the best guy you faced?
Billy Joiner: It was Liston. Liston was the toughest guy.