By William Kates
CANASTOTA, N.Y. - He had a boxing resume that could stand beside the greatest in his sport. Yet, Larry Holmes always seemed to have to justify himself as a champion.
There was no need for explanations Tuesday.
Holmes received the ultimate validation when he took his place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Joining him in the 2008 class were 11 others boxers and ring personalities chosen by members of the Boxing Writers Association and a panel of international boxing historians.
He will be enshrined as the longest reigning world heavyweight champion in boxing history, holding the title for nearly seven years (1978-85). Holmes' 20 successful heavyweight title defenses were surpassed by only Joe Louis with 25. He was on the verge of matching Rocky Marciano's perfect 49-0 mark when he was upset by Michael Spinks for his first loss.
"I think there were some people who shortchanged me ... not the fans," Holmes said by telephone from his business office in Easton, Pa. "Sometimes the critics try to make you think you are less than what you are."
"I feel good about myself. I'm not going to let people put me down. I worked hard. I worked hard," said Holmes, who is 58 but just five years removed from his last fight.
Holmes will be inducted June 8 along with junior welterweight champion Eddie Perkins. Middleweight Holman Williams will be inducted posthumously. All three are in the hall's modern-era category.
Middleweights Len Harvey and Frank Klaus and welterweight Harry Lewis were honored in the old-timer category, and 19th-century Irish heavyweight Dan Donnelly in the pioneer class.
Holmes compiled a record of 69-6, with 44 knockouts. But there always seemed to be questions about just how good he was, Hall of Fame executive director Ed Brophy said.
The "Easton Assassin" possessed one of the best left jabs in boxing history, a devastating overhand right and uppercut. Hall of Fame referee Arthur Mercante put Holmes among his top five all-time heavyweights.