Holmes Goes After The Truth Tonight : Undefeated Champion Faces Challenger in Televised Bout

Times Staff Writer

The principal appeal of Carl (The Truth) Williams so far is his nickname, which stands to figure prominently in Tuesday's headlines one way or another. If Williams does in fact beat undefeated heavyweight champion Larry Holmes tonight, look for something like "Nothing But The Truth."

On the other hand, should he lose as expected (he's an 8-1 underdog), you might be alerted to the fact by this headline: "Holmes Discovers the Awful Truth." And so on. Writers have already speculated in print that Holmes, given his experience of 47 fights, 31 more than Williams, could very well stretch the Truth. Flat.

The fun has already begun.

Other than that, what's to say? This is one more stop, 15 scheduled rounds of International Boxing Federation action, along Holmes' path of semi-retirement, now announced as a quest of Rocky Marciano's record for most victories by an undefeated fighter. When he retired the last time that record didn't mean much to Holmes. He said so. But now the record, and the network money that's financing this prime-time (NBC will telecast from Reno's Lawlor Events Center) extravaganza, are newly important.

Marciano went 49-0 through the early '50s, his critics complain, tiptoeing through the graveyard, fighting one aged fighter after another. Holmes, even his admirers would admit, has been going the other route, tiptoeing nonetheless. All his opponents the last two years have been picked with care, all good fighters to be sure, but all inexperienced. Holmes, 35, has publicly stated he will not put his body in jeopardy for any amount of money. On the other hand, he will fight novices such as Marvis Frazier (KO 1), James (Bonecrusher) Smith (KO 12) or David Bey (K0 10) if the money is right.

Williams is drawn from this same pool of baby-faced heavyweights. Williams, 25, makes the other unripened heavyweights look positively grizzled. Williams' big test so far was a 10-round decision over James (Quick) Tillis. That was after Tillis made a lie out of the Truth twice in the first round.

The undefeated Williams didn't fight professionally until he was 22. He didn't even take it up as an amateur until he was 20. He preferred basketball on New York's courts over anything else. What fighting he did was impressive, all the same. Williams won two New York Golden Glove titles and won the 1981 World Cup as well.

Still, he's young, which is really the truth. All the kids Holmes has brought in to help with his pension have fought ably but all have failed late in the fight (with the exception of Frazier who failed just as early as possible). Holmes' experience and his refusal to take any opponent lightly in training have all enabled him to prevail.

Still, you never know, which is why people keep buying tickets to these things. Everybody wants to be there when Holmes loses and everybody is pretty sure it will happen eventually, since Holmes evidently has lost the capacity to retire to Easton, Pa., and mind his bar. All the others have been scary enough to hearten any challenger no matter how young he is. Maybe it will be the next time with Tony Tucker or after that with Frank Bruno.

Maybe even it will be this time. Stranger things have happened. And then what will they say. The Truth is stranger than fiction?

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