Gerry Cooney

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Gerry Cooney
Devin Harjes & Gerry Cooney (6379758097).jpg
Cooney (right) with actor Devin Harjes, 2011
  • Gentleman
  • Great White Hope
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 6 in (198 cm)
Reach 81 in (206 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1956-08-24) August 24, 1956 (age 60)
Manhattan, New York City,
New York, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 31
Wins 28
Wins by KO 24
Losses 3

Gerry Cooney (born August 24, 1956) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1977 to 1990. 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 credibly before his corner retired him in round 13, and was regarded as having made a brave and determined effort. A view of him as tactically naive in defense was reinforced when former light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks stopped Cooney in five rounds in 1987. In his final bout, he demonstrated his exceptionally hard punching power by staggering the 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. He was fined three points for repeated low blows. After 12 rounds, the more skillful and experienced Holmes finally wore him down. In round 13, Cooney's trainer Victor Valle stepped into the ring to save his fighter from further punishment.[6] Two of the three judges would have had Cooney ahead after the 12th round if it weren't for the point deductions.[7]

After a long layoff, Cooney fought in September, 1984, beating Phillip Brown by a 4th-round knockout in Anchorage, Alaska.[8] He fought once more that year and won, but personal problems kept him out of the ring.[9]

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.[10]

Cooney compiled a professional record of 28 wins and 3 losses, with 24 knockouts. He is ranked number 53 on The Ring'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 except in combinations. 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.[5] Despite his devastating punching power, Cooney's moderate stamina and lack of experience proved to be his downfall.

Cooney's left-hook is described as one of the most powerful punches in boxing history.

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

According to George Foreman, Gerry Cooney was one of the three hardest punchers he had faced in his career along with Ron Lyle and Cleveland Williams.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13][14]

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.[15]

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
31 fights 28 wins 3 losses
By knockout 24 3
By decision 3 0
By disqualification 1 0
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
31 Loss 28–3 United States George Foreman KO 2 (10), 1:57 Jan 15, 1990 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
30 Loss 28–2 United States Michael Spinks TKO 5 (15), 2:51 Jun 15, 1987 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
29 Win 28–1 United States Eddie Gregg KO 1 (10), 1:26 May 31, 1986 United States Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, U.S.
28 Win 27–1 United States George Chaplin TKO 2 (10), 2:50 Dec 8, 1984 United States Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
27 Win 26–1 United States Philipp Brown TKO 4 (10), 2:37 Sep 29, 1984 United States Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
26 Loss 25–1 United States Larry Holmes TKO 13 (15), 2:52 Jun 11, 1982 United States Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S. For WBC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight titles
25 Win 25–0 United States Ken Norton TKO 1 (10), 0:54 May 11, 1981 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
24 Win 24–0 United States Ron Lyle KO 1 (10), 2:49 Oct 24, 1980 United States Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New York City, New York, U.S.
23 Win 23–0 United States Jimmy Young RTD 4 (10) May 25, 1980 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
22 Win 22–0 United States Leroy Boone TKO 6 (10), 0:55 Dec 14, 1979 United States Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
21 Win 21–0 United States John Dino Denis TKO 3 (10), 1:14 Nov 9, 1979 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
20 Win 20–0 United States Malik Dozier KO 6 (10) Oct 9, 1979 United States Long Island Arena, Commack, New York, U.S.
19 Win 19–0 United States Broderick Mason KO 4 (10), 1:44 Aug 22, 1979 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
18 Win 18–0 United States Tom Prater TKO 2 (10), 2:13 Jun 29, 1979 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
17 Win 17–0 United States Charlie Johnson KO 1 (10), 1:51 Feb 26, 1979 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
16 Win 16–0 United States Eddie Lopez UD 8 Jan 13, 1979 United States Convention Center, Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.
15 Win 15–0 United States Grady Daniels RTD 5 (8) Dec 15, 1978 United States Felt Forum, New York City, New York, U.S.
14 Win 14–0 United States Sam McGill UD 8 Nov 1, 1978 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, U.S.
13 Win 13–0 United States Charley Polite KO 4 (8) Oct 4, 1978 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, U.S.
12 Win 12–0 United States G. G. Maldonado TKO 8 (8), 2:56 Jun 22, 1978 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
11 Win 11–0 United States S. T. Gordon DQ 4 (10), 1:34 Mar 17, 1978 United States The Aladdin, Paradise, Nevada, U.S. Gordon disqualified for repeated holding
10 Win 10–0 United States Gary Bates KO 4 (6) Feb 11, 1978 United States Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.
9 Win 9–0 United States Austin Johnson KO 1 (6), 1:23 Jan 27, 1978 United States Calderone Concert Hall, Hempstead, New York, U.S.
8 Win 8–0 United States Terry Lee Kidd KO 1 (6) Jan 14, 1978 United States Colonie Hill, Hauppauge, New York, U.S.
7 Win 7–0 United States Jimmie Sykes KO 1 (6) Dec 21, 1977 United States Roll-O Rama, New York City, New York, U.S.
6 Win 6–0 United States Quinnie Locklear KO 1 (6), 1:51 Nov 30, 1977 United States Westchester County Center, White Plains, New York, U.S.
5 Win 5–0 United States Joe Maye KO 4 (6), 2:15 Nov 18, 1977 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
4 Win 4–0 United States Matt Robinson PTS 4 Aug 3, 1977 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
3 Win 3–0 United States Jose Rosario KO 2 (6), 2:10 Mar 20, 1977 United States Exposition Center, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
2 Win 2–0 United States Jimmy Robertson KO 2 (6), 1:58 Mar 2, 1977 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
1 Win 1–0 United States Bill Jackson KO 1 (6), 1:32 Feb 15, 1977 United States Sunnyside Gardens, New York City, New York, U.S. Professional debut

Cooney in popular culture[edit]

  • In an episode of The Simpsons, "$pringfield", Cooney is the official greeter of Mr. Burns' Casino, but gets dropped by a single punch by an irritated 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 is mentioned the song "Inner Light", by hip hop duo Zion I.
  • He is featured in the song "Cooney Vs. Munly" on Jay Munly's 2002 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 an episode of Married... with Children, "Reverend Al", character Al Bundy proclaims that women could "no longer whip us (men) like a nation of Gerry Cooneys!"
  • Cooney guest starred as "Angel" in episode 17 of season 1 of Spenser: For Hire, "In a Safe Place". Angel acts an an enforcer who outboxes Spenser, but quits rather than hurt him.


  1. ^ Gerry Cooney (1956-08-04). "Gerry Cooney Quotes". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  2. ^ SIVAULT 06/02/1980, New York Daily News Archives, SIVAULT 04/19/1982, New York Daily News Archives
  3. ^ Boxing 101, "Gerry Cooney vs. Jimmy Young: VHS Classic Rewind", May 25, 2012
  4. ^ Boxing 101,"Gerry Cooney vs. Ken Norton: VHS Classic Rewind", May 31, 2012
  5. ^ a b Boxing 101, "Gerry Cooney, Still A Gentleman 30 Years Later: Part One - The Championship Fight", April 30, 2012
  6. ^ "Larry Holmes Vs Gerry Cooney: VHS Classic Rewind | Boxing 101 | Sports Media 101". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  7. ^ Holmes, Larry (1998). Against the odds. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312187361. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Boxing 101, "Gerry Cooney, Still A Gentleman 30 Years Later: Part Two - Life After Boxing", May 1, 2012,
  10. ^ Video on YouTube
  11. ^ "George Foreman On Tyson & Hardest Punchers". YouTube. 2011-11-02. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  12. ^ Boxing 101, "Gerry Cooney, Still A Gentleman 30 Years Later: Part Four - The Future of Boxing", May 3, 2012
  13. ^ Boxing 101, "Gerry Cooney, Still A Gentleman 30 Years Later: Part Two - Life After Boxing", May 1, 2012
  14. ^ Boxing 101, "Gerry Cooney, Still A Gentleman 30 Years Later: Part Three - Boxing Today", May 2, 2012
  15. ^ "Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney: Foes for a Night, Friends for a Lifetime | Boxing 101 | Sports Media 101". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 

External links[edit]