Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney

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Larry Holmes vs Gerry Cooney
Holmes vs Cooney.jpg
Date June 11, 1982
Location Caesars Palace in Paradise, Nevada
Title(s) on the line WBC Heavyweight Championship

United States Larry Holmes vs. United StatesGerry Cooney
"The Easton Assassin" "Gentleman"
Tale of the tape
Easton, Pennsylvania, US From Huntington, New York, US
39–0 Pre-fight record 25–0
WBC Heavyweight Champion Recognition

Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney was a boxing fight that took place on June 11, 1982. It was one of the most highly anticipated fights of the early 1980s.

Setup[edit]

Larry Holmes had been the WBC heavyweight champion since 1978, when he beat Ken Norton by a fifteen round split decision at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He had beaten the challenges of such fighters (among others) as Ossie Ocasio, Mike Weaver, Trevor Berbick. Leon Spinks and, most notably, Muhammad Ali.[1] The fact that Holmes stopped the legendary Ali in eleven rounds did not help his popularity with boxing fans as Ali was very past his prime, at 38 years old. Ali lacked the speed, reflexes, or even strength of earlier days.

Gerry Cooney, on the other hand, had been a professional fighter since 1977, and he was able to beat boxers such as Jimmy Young and others. The turning point of his career came when he beat Ken Norton, in May 1981, by knockout in round one at the Madison Square Garden in New York.[2]

Anticipation over a Holmes-Cooney confrontation began to take shape in early 1981, but the fight took over a year to happen, partly because 1981 in particular was a very busy year for boxing with many other big fights, partly because Holmes was obliged to defend against Berbick, Spinks and Renaldo Snipes in that order. Cooney only had one fight in 1981, against Norton. Holmes-Cooney was originally scheduled for March 1982, but was postponed until June when Cooney injured his back in training.

By 1982, promoter Don King and manager Dennis Rappaport began one of the most massive and racially toned campaigns in boxing history to raise public interest for a fight between Holmes and Cooney. After they were both signed to fight, an intense promotional tour followed. Holmes and Cooney attended press conferences at several United States cities, Cooney was shown on the cover of Time magazine, Hollywood stars took an interest in the fight (Sylvester Stallone in particular hung out with Gerry Cooney, others, such as Woody Allen, attended the fight live) and Cooney was cast as "The Great White Hope". There had not been a White world Heavyweight champion in 22 years, and Cooney would try to change that. White supremacist groups had announced they would have "agents" ready to shoot at Holmes the moment he entered the ring, and Black groups retaliated by answering that they would also have armed people on hand in case Holmes was attacked. Because of this, there were police snipers on the roofs of every major hotel surrounding the fight's venue, once again, the Caesars Palace hotel and casino. Snipers were used because the fight was held at the hotel's parking lot; any attacker could have been easily shot by police snipers.

The fight was televised live on closed-circuit and pay-per-view television all over the world. A week after the bout, it was re-broadcast on HBO, and later still, on ABC-TV.

The fight[edit]

Wilfredo Gómez knocked out Juan Antonio Lopez in ten rounds to retain his WBC super bantamweight title in the semi-final fight, and Holmes and Cooney then took center stage without any incidents. Holmes versus Cooney was refereed by Mills Lane. The announcer that night named Holmes first. Some thought that this was unprecedented; it is tradition in boxing that the challenger be named first and the champion last. The announcement was considered shameful and intensely disrespectful toward the champion Holmes by the boxing community. In fact, when Holmes had challenged Norton for the title, Norton had been introduced first. Nevertheless, when the boxers touched gloves before the first round began, Holmes told Cooney, "Let's have a good fight."

Holmes dropped Cooney in round two, but Cooney got up and landed a damage-causing shot to the body by the end of round four. By Holmes' own account, he felt lucky that punch landed close to the end of that round. Holmes and Cooney fought closely from rounds five to eight, trading punches in mid-ring. This was the point where Cooney's inactivity started affecting him, however, and Holmes again dropped the championship hopeful in round thirteen, which proved to be the final round. By round ten, Cooney's punches began landing low, and this caused him to fall further behind on the judges' scorecards, referee Lane deducting three points from him for the infractions.[3]

By round thirteen, Cooney seemed to believe that he would lose the fight and was just trying to last the fifteen round distance.[4] He had suffered a cut on his left eye and was taking heavy punishment. Midway through the round, a Holmes cross landed flush on Cooney's left cheek, and Cooney's legs buckled. He landed against the ropes, near his corner, and Holmes moved in, intent on finishing his job. Cooney's trainer, Victor Valle, prevented him from doing so, however, by throwing a towel from Cooney's corner, signifying that they were quitting. It should be clarified, however, that Cooney did not quit, his corner did that for him.[3]

Aftermath[edit]

Cooney had a series of problems after this fight, and he fought sporadically until 1990, when he retired for good after being knocked out in two rounds by George Foreman. Holmes, on the other hand, was Heavyweight champion until he lost his belt to Michael Spinks in 1985. He retired in 1986, but has made several comebacks since.

HBO presented a documentary on the fight as part of its Legendary Nights series on memorable boxing bouts.[5]

Holmes and Cooney are now very good friends[6] and Holmes has helped Cooney with Cooney's organization, F.I.S.T., which helps former boxers get other jobs and medical insurance after they retire.

References[edit]