THE OFFICIAL announcement of the International Boxing Hall of Fame's Class of 2008 won't be made until 1 p.m. today, but it's a safe bet at least one candidate who was on the ballot, former heavyweight champion

Larry Holmes

, will carry all the precincts. The "Easton Assassin" is going in on a landslide that will make

LBJ

over

Goldwater

and

Reagan

over

Carter

look like squeakers.

The actual induction will be June 8 in Canastota, N.Y.

Holmes, 58, who hasn't had a fight since he outpointed Eric "Butterbean" Esch on July 27, 2002, had to wait out the mandatory 5-year waiting period before becoming eligible for enshrinement. All that time, he knew this day was as certain as the swallows returning to Capistrano. So, no, Holmes won't feign surprise when Ed Brophy, the Hall of Fame's executive director, calls with the good news.

"It's my early Christmas present," Holmes said when I asked him about his imminent certification as a ring immortal. "But I peeked in the box. I know what I'm getting.

"Don't you think I deserve it? Don't you think I'm one of the greatest of all time? My record speaks for itself. Seventy-five fights, 69 wins, 44 knockouts.

"At least three of my losses, I got robbed. The reason for that is because I got a big mouth. [Boxing's power brokers] got tired of me being on top. They wanted to show me I wasn't bigger than boxing. They wanted to get rid of me [as champion], so they did.

"When I fought [Michael] Spinks, they saw their opportunity, because they did not want me to break the record of the great Rocky Marciano. But you know what? When I lost that fight, or they said I lost it, I was actually relieved. The pressure finally was off."

Marciano was 49-0 when he retired in 1955. Holmes was 48-0 when he lost a close but unanimous decision to Spinks on Sept. 21, 1985. At the postfight news conference, the ever-blunt Holmes responded to a reference to Marciano by saying, "Rocky Marciano couldn't carry my jockstrap."

Speaking his mind like that might have turned off a few Hall of Fame voters to Holmes, although certainly not enough to keep him waiting. Besides, he can't stop being who he is. What you hear is what you get.

And what Holmes is saying now is that it's time for him to accept the reality that no longer can he walk it like he talks it.

"You're supposed to go into a Hall of Fame when you're an old athlete," he said. "I am an old athlete now, so I'll be right at home. If they had put me in 5 years ago, I don't think I would have been ready for it."

Which is Holmes' not-so-subtle way of saying that, at 53, he was still hoping to duke it out with George Foreman.

"I wanted to fight George then," Holmes acknowledged. "I thought about that last year. I think about it now.

"He's one guy whose [butt] I really wanted to kick. He's a big phony. The press eats out of his hand, because they think he's a nice guy, but believe me, he's not. He hides his horns like [promoter] Don King. You can't change a leopard's spots."

Or, as Holmes continues to demonstrate, an old leopard's growl.

Face to face

You knew this had to happen, eventually.

You knew this had to happen, eventually.

Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs), The Ring magazine light-heavyweight champion, and undisputed super middleweight titlist Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs) have been jawing at each other for years, but always from a distance.

Or at least that was the case until Friday, when their paths finally crossed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

North Philadelphia native Hopkins was in town as the business partner of Oscar De La Hoya, the co-promoter of Saturday's matchup of WBC welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. and British challenger Ricky Hatton.

Calzaghe jetted in from his home country of Wales to cheer on Hatton, or so he claimed.

But when Calzaghe approached Hopkins, in a media room full of reporters from both sides of the Atlantic, it was a mortal lock that more would be exchanged than season's greetings.

"I'm going to wreck your face," Hopkins told Calzaghe, adding that "I would never let a white boy beat me."

Calzaghe, whom publicist Fred Sternburg has cleverly dubbed "Joe C Wales," did not appear to be intimidated. In fact, he insisted he is eager to move up to 175 pounds and get it on with B-Hop, even in America, where he has never fought.

"It's good to show my face here [in the United States]," said Calzaghe, who insisted it won't be his mug that gets wrecked when he and Hopkins stop talking and start punching. "I've come here to support Ricky, but this was a bonus.

"Hopkins is all mouth. If we ever fight, he will get knocked out. I will kill 'The Executioner.' "

Just a thought, but isn't Hopkins' "white boy" comment as offensive as if Calzaghe had said he would never let a "black boy" beat him?

Date book

If you're wondering what to get that fight fan on your holiday shopping list, here's a suggestion.

If you're wondering what to get that fight fan on your holiday shopping list, here's a suggestion.

"The Fight of the Century," a book impeccably researched and written by Michael Arkush, takes a comprehensive look at the March 8, 1971, first matchup of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Arkush's treatment of the most widely anticipated boxing event of the past 40 years, and maybe ever, is more even-handed than you'll find in other books on these two great heavyweights, which usually tend to present more of one side than the other.

At a taut 272 pages, Arkush provides all the details, some of which are not widely known, and avoids the overkill that can turn even well-intentioned tomes into an exercise in tedium.

*

Send e-mail to fernanb@phillynews.com.