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Grandpa Holmes set for another fight

July 10, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ With a three-piece band providing the accompaniment, two-time heavyweight champion Larry Holmes stepped out on a balcony of Manhattan’s 21 Club Wednesday and halted lunchtime traffic by singing to the passing pedestrians.

His rap song had some uncomplimentary lines about managers and promoters, people Holmes has tangled with over a lifetime in the ring.

``I have no love for managers and promoters,″ he said. ``I love me. Managers and promoters don’t like me. I do the best for my fighter. My fighter happens to be me.″

Holmes was celebrating his return to Madison Square Garden, where he fights Maurice Harris on July 29 in a match to be televised by USA Network. In a co-feature of the card, unbeaten Richie Melito fights journeyman Bert Cooper.

The last time Holmes fought in the Garden was 1979 against Mike Weaver. Harris missed the bout, but he had a good excuse because he was only 4 years old.

Before Holmes started singing, he looked over at Harris and said, ``How old are you? Twenty-one? Twenty-two. Last time I looked, I had grandbabies 21, 22.″

Not really. Holmes’ two grandchildren are still considerably younger than that. He, however, is 47, a bit on the elderly side for a boxer, if not for a balcony singer.

``I feel like 90, sometimes,″ he said. ``I’m 47, but a 21-year-old can’t keep up with me.″

Harris will try. His record is a mediocre 9-8 and he tried some tough talk on Holmes. ``He’s had his time,″ the young man said. ``Now it’s my time. I want to get where he’s been.″

Harris’ claim to fame is a victory over Jimmy Thunder. Holmes seemed amused at that. ``I’m not Jimmy Thunder,″ he said. ``I’m a long way from Jimmy Thunder.″

He did not say in which direction.

The Harris fight is part of three-fight deal Holmes has signed with Boxing International LLC, an agreement Holmes hopes will lead to a match with another boxing senior citizen, George Foreman.

If not, he promises to go away, a pledge he has made before, as recently as Father’s Day last year when his family was pressuring him to retire. He did, until January when he lost a 12-round split decision in Copenhagen, Denmark, to Brian Nielsen in what was billed as an International Boxing Organization heavyweight title fight. Holmes insisted he won the fight.

``I’m not going to stick around too long,″ he said. ``I’m not going to overstay my welcome.″

When it came time to pose for pictures, Holmes coaxed Harris into a ritual he has participated in for what seems forever. ``C’mon, don’t be shy,″ he said. Then he hammed it up, mugging at Harris, jutting his jaw the way Muhammad Ali once did, luring Harris into a fierce look that seemed out of character for the young man.

It’s all part and parcel of a typical boxing promotion. Holmes has been around the sport 27 years, long enough to know the rules.

He explained the fight with Harris in simple terms. ``We have to do this,″ he said. ``It’s our job. He takes my head off. I take his off. And then we go out and have a beer.″

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