A long lovers’ quarrel: Larry Holmes and his hometown

Larry Holmes is getting his sheepskin, finally.

The former boxing champion, a seventh-grade dropout, will get an honorary diploma from his hometown high school in Easton, Pa.

I’m glad about that. I just wish the champ were gladder.

Based on a report in the Allentown Morning Call, he seems miffed that the school waited until he was 61 years old to get around to doing this.

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I lived in Easton during Larry’s underappreciated reign as heavyweight champ of the known universe, and knew him fairly well. He’s always had a lover’s quarrel with his downtrodden hometown.

Unlike a lot of athletes who hit it big, he never moved away. He has invested his boxing earnings heavily there: restaurants, hotels, office buildings.

But there was always an edge, a barbed sense of feeling unappreciated.

One story sums it up: In 1978, Larry won the title for the first time in a truly stirring, 15-round war with Ken Norton.

After, in the locker room, the new champ lay on a table, exhausted, battered, barely able to greet a friend from Easton with his gap-toothed grin. The first words out of his mouth:

“There’s a lot of broke dudes back home tonight. I know they all bet against me.”

True story. Only the word Larry used wasn’t “dudes.”

Larry Holmes is a sweet and generous man, with brutal fists and a clumsy mouth that too often betrayed him, costing him the renown his deeds should have earned him.

This honor from the local high school may be tardy, but it’s well-earned and not too late. I hope Larry can cherish it.

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