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Fight of His Life: Larry Holmes Battles Deadliest Opponent

The call from the doctor's office changed everything.

Larry Holmes built a boxing legacy and a business empire, but on that day three years ago, his life was in jeopardy.

Diane Holmes could tell by the urgency in the voice on the other end of the line, urging her to get her husband to the hospital immediately.

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Holmes, 66, was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in March 2013. His blood sugar was astronomical — the reason he had been lethargic and lightheaded lately.

"His blood sugar was so high," wife Diane recalled. "Because he was an athlete and being in such good shape, they told us that's what saved him. Because most people would have died."

Holmes, one of the great heavyweights and champion of the world from 1978 to 1985, enjoyed the honor of a statue dedication in December at Scott Park in Easton, his boyhood home.

Now a new documentary traces not his career as a sports hero, but his battle with diabetes and his family's role in becoming educated about the condition in which the body doesn't make enough of the hormone insulin.

Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States, with Type 2 being the most common. About 27 million Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes, and more have symptoms that are so mild they may not even notice them.

A premiere screening of the 30-minute film, "Sweat Effect: Larry Holmes' Biggest Fight," will be held Monday night at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks. It will air at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1, on Channel 69 WFMZ-TV.

The film is a collaborative project of Emmy Award-winning ASR Media Productions and St. Luke's University Health Network.

ASR President Ashley Russo said the documentary was shot over nine months with a goal of using Holmes' fame and longstanding relationship with St. Luke's to deliver what for many can be a lifesaving message.

The film follows Larry and Diane into consultations and sessions with nutritionists, endocrinologists and a personal trainer as they begin to understand diabetes and learn how to manage it.

"It was an unbelievable experience to watch," said Russo, who is co-executive producer along with Kenneth Szydlow, vice president of marketing for St. Luke's. "I hope the audience gets to learn and understand what it means to live with Type II diabetes. You see it as it happens."

It includes interviews with family members, friends such as announcer Mike Mittman and ring rivals such as Earnie Shavers, Gerry Cooney and Mike Tyson.

Holmes injected insulin four times a day in the year after his diagnosis and today says he manages his diabetes with medication and a healthier lifestyle.

"I didn't know too much about diabetes and blood sugar," he said. "It was not a part of my vocabulary, even though it ran in my family."

Holmes said he agreed to the project to spread the word and to show gratitude to St. Luke's for helping to straighten him out.

"When people save you and help you out and you listen, the life you save can be your own," said Holmes, of Palmer Township. "I don't take that stuff for granted. And a lot of times, people do.

"I think I was taking it for granted at one time. I was doing what I wanted to do, eating too much, drinking too much and not working out. I was taking it for granted. And then it hit me. I didn't want to die. I want to live a long time. If I want to live, I have to do it."

Easton celebrated dedication of a monument to the former heavyweight champ in Scott Park on Dec. 13, 2015.

Revealing interviews with Holmes family members illustrate the gravity of the situation in the days after the ex-fighter's hospitalization.

Holmes' son, Larry Holmes Jr., recounts the phone call he received from his mother relating his dad's admission to St. Luke's Anderson campus and his brush with a diabetic coma.

"I thought 'Is this it? Is this how my dad dies?'" Holmes Jr. says.

The elder Holmes said he hadn't felt right for some time but needed to be persuaded to finally go to the doctor.

"I knew something wasn't right," Diane Homes says in the film. "He was laying around, and that's not Larry."

Holmes now has his diabetes under control and, using the recommendations given by St. Luke's health professionals, altered his lifestyle to help manage it.

"It motivated me to get up in the morning and exercise," he said. "They gave me some different ways to do things. I was able to do all that and overcome it. I stopped drinking so much and started eating the right foods most of the time."

Diane Holmes said the family hopes the documentary encourages others to eliminate the guesswork and go for regular checkups.

"The message is hopefully people will go and get checked," she said. "If you have a pain or something, go get checked. We don't know. Larry didn't feel right and he kept letting it go. When you feel like something is wrong with you, you need to check it out."


Original Story Published Here: http://bit.ly/1pygLCW

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Information from: The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times, http://www.lehighvalleylive.com

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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