Gerry Cooney former heavyweight contender who fought George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton SIGNED Ring Magazine, edition August 1982.
Gerry Cooney (born August 4, 1956) From Huntington, New York best known for his loss to Larry Holmes in one of the most celebrated boxing matches in history.
Life Before Boxing
Born into a blue collar Irish-American family on Long Island, Cooney was encouraged to become a professional fighter by his father. His brother Tommy Cooney was also a boxer, and reached the finals of the New York Golden Gloves Sub-Novice Heavyweight division.
Fighting as an amateur, Gerry Cooney won international tournaments in England, Wales and Scotland, as well as the New York Golden Gloves titles. He won two New York Golden Gloves Championships, the 1973 160lb Sub-Novice Championship and the 1976 Heavyweight Open Championship. Cooney defeated Larry Derrick to win the 1973 160lb Sub-Novice title, and Earlous Tripp to win the 1976 Heavyweight Open title. In 1975 he reached the finals of the 175lb Open division, but was defeated by Johnny Davis.
Cooney trained at the Huntington Athletic Club in Long Island, New York where his trainer was John Capobianco, Sr. His amateur record consisted of 55 wins and 3 losses.
When he turned professional, Cooney signed with co-managers Mike Jones and Dennis Rappaport. He was then trained by Victor Valle Sr.
Known for his big left-hook and his imposing size, the tall, lean Cooney had his first paid fight on February 15, 1977, beating Billy Jackson by a knockout in one round. Nine wins followed and Cooney gained attention as a future contender. He moved up a weight class and fought future World cruiserweight champion S.T. Gordon in Las Vegas, winning by a fourth round disqualification. Cooney had 11 more wins, spanning 1978 and 1979. Among those he defeated were Charlie Polite, former US heavyweight champion Eddie Lopez, and Tom Prater.
By 1980, Cooney was being featured on national television. He beat title challengers Jimmy Young and Ron Lyle, both by knockout. By now he was ranked number 1 by the WBC and eager for a match with champion Larry Holmes.
In 1981, he defeated former World heavyweight champion Ken Norton by a knockout just 54 seconds into the first round, which broke the record set in 1948 by Lee Savold for the quickest knockout in a main event in Madison Square Garden.
The following year, Holmes agreed to fight him. With a purse of ten million dollars for the challenger, it was the richest fight in boxing history to that time. The promotion of the fight took on racial overtones that were exaggerated by the promoters, something Cooney did not agree with.
He believed that skill, not race, should determine if a boxer was good. However, if Cooney won, he would have become the first Caucasian World heavyweight champion since Swede Ingemar Johansson defeated Floyd Patterson 23 years earlier. This caused Don King to label Cooney "The Great White Hope." The bout drew attention Worldwide, and Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney was one of the biggest closed-circuit/pay-per-view productions in history, broadcast to over 150 countries.
Cooney fought bravely after he was knocked down briefly in the second round. But after 12 rounds, the more skillful and experienced Holmes finally wore him down. In round 13, Cooney's trainer stepped into the ring to save his fighter from further punishment.
After a long layoff, Cooney fought in September 1984, beating Phillip Brown by a 4th round knockout in Anchorage, Alaska. He fought once more that year and won, but personal problems kept him out of the ring.
Cooney was far past his prime when he made an ill advised comeback against former World heavyweight and World light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Spinks knocked him out in round 5. Cooney's last fight was in 1990. He was knocked out in two rounds by former World champion George Foreman. Cooney did stagger Foreman in the first round, but he was simply overmatched.
Cooney compiled a professional record of 28 wins and 3 losses, with 24 knockouts. He is ranked number 53 on Ring Magazine's list of "100 Greatest Punchers of All Time".
Cooney had an orthodox style, with a good jab, a big-left, and a seldom used right. Most of his fights ended in quick knockouts; while this benefited him in the beginning of his career, it left him unprepared for his fight with Larry Holmes. Despite his devastating punching power, Cooney's moderate stamina and lack of experience proved to be his downfall. Many feel he had real potential, but was limited by his lack of experience.
Cooney's left-hook is described as one of the most powerful punches in boxing history. Foreman, Holmes, and Lyle all stated that Cooney's left was the hardest they had ever taken. It is also notable that Holmes had also previously fought Earnie Shavers, and at the time stated Shavers had the most powerful blow he had ever received. But Shavers had lost by a 6th round TKO to Ron Lyle, while Cooney finished him off in the first round.
Cooney was known for not throwing punches at the head, aiming instead for his opponent's chest, ribs, or stomach.
Cooney founded the Fighters' Initiative for Support and Training, an organization which helps retired boxers find jobs. He has always tried to distance himself from the racism of the Holmes vs. Cooney match promotion. He and Holmes have become very good friends over the years.
Cooney is also heavily involved with J.A.B., the first union for boxers. He became a boxing promoter for title bouts featuring Roberto Duran, Hector Camacho, and George Foreman. Cooney is a supporter with of the "Hands are not for hitting" program, which tries to prevent domestic violence.
Gerry Cooney now resides in Fanwood, New Jersey with his wife Jennifer and their three children. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame at Walt Whitman High School, where he graduated.