Gerry Cooney

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Gerry Cooney
Statistics
Real name Gerry Cooney
Nickname(s) Gentleman Gerry / Great White Hope
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 6 in (198 cm)
Reach 81 in (206 cm)
Nationality United States American
Born (1956-08-24) August 24, 1956 (age 57)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 31
Wins 28
Wins by KO 24
Losses 3
Draws 0
No contests 0

Gerry Cooney (born August 24, 1956) is a retired Irish-American professional heavyweight boxer from Huntington, New York. Despite relative inexperience, his exciting wins and size, aided by expert promotion, propelled Cooney into a lucrative bout with world heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in 1982. Cooney performed creditably before his corner retired him in round 13, and was regarded as having made a brave and determined effort. He was also sportsmanlike, stepping back after inflicting a low blow that might have been followed up with a contest-ending left to Holmes's jaw by a less scrupulous fighter, though such gentlemanly conduct was seen as typical of his general lack of professional instincts. A view of him as tactically naive in defence was reinforced when former light-heavyweight Michael Spinks defeated Cooney in five rounds. In his final bout, he demonstrated his exceptionally hard punch by staggering powerful George Foreman, but was unable to capitalize on it; again showing himself deficient at basic self-protection, Cooney suffered a devastating second round knockout that ended his career.

Life before boxing[edit]

Born into a blue collar Irish-Catholic[1] 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.

Amateur boxing[edit]

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 160-lb Sub-Novice Championship and the 1976 Heavyweight Open Championship. Cooney defeated Larry Derrick to win the 1973 160-lb Sub-Novice title, and Earlous Tripp to win the 1976 Heavyweight Open title. In 1975 he reached the finals of the 175-lb 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. 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.[2]

Professional career[edit]

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. Although his opponents were carefully chosen. 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. These were not rated contenders however.

By 1980, Cooney was being featured on national television. Stepping up, he beat one time title challengers Jimmy Young and Ron Lyle, both by 'knockouts,' although the Young fight was stopped because of cuts sustained by Young.[3] 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 with a blisteringly powerful attack.[4] This broke the record set in 1948 by Lee Savold for the quickest knockout in a main event in Madison Square Garden. Since his management team was unwilling to risk losing a big future pay day with Holmes by having him face another viable fighter, Cooney did not fight for 13 months after defeating Norton.[5]

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. Some believe he was winning until he was fined three points for repeated low blows in round 10. 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.[6]

After a long layoff, Cooney fought in September, 1984, beating Phillip Brown by a 4th-round knockout in Anchorage, Alaska.[7] He fought once more that year and won, but personal problems kept him out of the ring.[8]

Cooney was far past his prime when he made an ill-advised comeback against former world heavyweight and world light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Boxing carefully, with constant sharp counters, Spinks knocked him out in round 5. Cooney's last fight was in 1990. He was knocked out in a match of the veterans in two slugging rounds by former world champion George Foreman. Cooney did stagger Foreman in the first round, but he was simply over-matched, and Foreman knocked him out two minutes into the second round.

The losses to Holmes, Spinks, and Foreman exposed Cooney's Achilles' heel: his inability to clinch and tie up his opponent when hurt. In the Foreman fight, he rose from a second-round knockdown and simply stood in the center of the ring as Foreman delivered the coup de grâce.[9]

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".

Boxing style[edit]

Cooney, who is naturally left-handed, used an orthodox stance. This provided him with a powerful jab and a lethal left hook, but a comparatively weak right which he seldom used. 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.[10] 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.

Cooney was known for not throwing punches at the head, aiming instead for his opponent's chest, ribs, or stomach. But this made him at times vulnerable against Holmes for example.

Present life[edit]

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 Durán, Héctor Camacho, and George Foreman. Cooney is a supporter with of the "Hands are not for hitting" program, which tries to prevent domestic violence. He also does his part to instill and build interest in the sport by guiding aspiring young fighters in the gym.[11]

In June 2010, Cooney became the co-host of "Friday Night at the Fights" on SIRIUS XM Radio where he shares his views with listeners on active fighters and relevant issues in the sport.[12][13]

Gerry Cooney now resides in Fanwood, New Jersey, with his wife Jennifer and two of their three children, Jackson and Sarah. His other son Chris resides in New York. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame at Walt Whitman High School, where he graduated.

Cooney remains close friends with Holmes several years following their classic fight.[14]

Professional boxing record[edit]

28 Wins (24 knockouts), 3 Losses, 0 Draws [1]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 28–3 United States George Foreman KO 2 (10) 15/01/1990 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States Cooney was floored twice in round 2.
Loss 28–2 United States Michael Spinks TKO 5 (15) 15/06/1987 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States Cooney down twice in round 5.
Win 28–1 United States Eddie Gregg KO 1 (10) 31/05/1986 United States Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, United States
Win 27–1 United States George Chaplin TKO 2 (10) 08/12/1984 United States Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Win 26–1 United States Philipp Brown TKO 4 (10) 29/09/1984 United States Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska, United States
Loss 25–1 United States Larry Holmes TKO 13 (15) 11/06/1982 United States Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States For WBC Heavyweight title. Cooney had 3 points deducted for low blows.
Win 25–0 United States Ken Norton TKO 1 (10) 11/05/1981 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 24–0 United States Ron Lyle KO 1 (10) 24/10/1980 United States Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, United States
Win 23–0 United States Jimmy Young TKO 4 (10) 25/05/1980 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States A cut over Young's left eye, led to a stoppage at the end of the 4th round.
Win 22–0 United States Leroy Boone TKO 6 (10) 14/12/1979 United States Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States
Win 21–0 United States John Dino Denis TKO 3 (10) 09/11/1979 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 20–0 United States Malik Dozier KO 6 (10) 09/10/1979 United States Suffolk Forum, Commack, New York, United States
Win 19–0 United States Broderick Mason KO 4 (10) 22/08/1979 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Win 18–0 United States Tom Prater TKO 2 (10) 29/06/1979 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Win 17–0 United States Charlie Johnson UD 8 26/02/1979 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States
Win 16–0 United States Eddie Lopez KO 1 (10) 13/01/1979 United States Convention Center, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Win 15–0 United States Grady Daniels RTD 5 (8) 15/12/1978 United States Felt Forum, New York, New York, United States Daniels not out for round 6.
Win 14–0 United States Sam McGill UD 8 01/11/1978 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, United States
Win 13–0 United States Charley Polite KO 4 (8) 04/10/1978 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, United States
Win 12–0 United States G.G. Maldonado TKO 8 (8) 22/06/1978 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 11–0 United States S. T. Gordon DQ 4 (10) 17/03/1978 United States The Aladdin, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 10–0 United States Gary Bates KO 4 (6) 11/02/1978 United States Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 9–0 United States Austin Johnson KO 1 (6) 27/01/1978 United States Calderon Theatre, Hempstead, New York, United States
Win 8–0 United States Terry Lee Kidd KO 1 (6) 14/01/1978 United States Colonie Hill, Hauppauge, New York, United States
Win 7–0 United States Jimmie Sykes KO 1 (6) 21/12/1977 United States Roll-A-Rama, Brooklyn, New York, United States
Win 6–0 United States Quinnie Locklear KO 1 (6) 30/11/1977 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, United States
Win 5–0 United States Joe Maye KO 4 (6) 18/11/1977 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 4–0 United States Matt Robinson PTS 4 03/08/1977 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 3–0 United States Jose Rosario KO 2 (6) 20/03/1977 United States Exposition Center, Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Win 2–0 United States Jimmy Robertson KO 2 (6) 02/03/1977 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, United States
Win 1–0 United States Bill Jackson KO 1 (6) 15/02/1977 United States Sunnyside Garden, Sunnyside, Queens, New York, United States

Cooney in popular culture[edit]

  • In an episode of The Simpsons, "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)", Cooney is the official greeter of Mr. Burns' Casino who gets dropped by a single punch by Otto Mann.
  • Cooney performed in the 1998 film Mob Queen as Mickey the Baker.
  • He is mentioned in the film The Great White Hype.
  • He's also mentioned in underground rap duo Zion I's song "Inner Light."
  • He is featured in the song "Cooney Vs. Munly" on Jay Munly's 2002 alt-country album Jimmy Carter Syndrome.
  • Jim Carrey, playing fictional character "Gerry Cooney Jr.", appears on a sketch in season 2, episode 11 of In Living Color.
  • In the Season 5, 100th episode of 30 Rock, Dennis Duffy says he went to Gerry Cooney Elementary School.
  • In the episode "Reverend Al" from season 10 of the FOX TV Show Married with Children, the character Al Bundy proclaimed that women could "no longer whip us (men) like a nation of Gerry Cooneys!"
  • Guest starred as Angel in episode 17 of season 1 of ABC's Spenser: For Hire, "In a Safe Place" (Original airdate: February 14, 1986). Angel is an enforcer who outboxes Spenser but quits rather than hurt him.

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