Gerry Cooney Vs. Ken Norton - An Unforgettable KO That Generated Excitement, Drama and Repulsion!

gerry cooneyBy James Slater: Some say former WBC heavyweight champ Ken Norton looked afraid when making his ring entrance for his fight with unbeaten Irish/American big noise Gerry Cooney. And, as things transpired, the 38-year-old former Muhammad Ali conqueror had a right to be somewhat tentative. Not only was he about to take some of the big punching, but largely untested contender’s (some said hype-job) blows flush on his chin, but Kenny was also about to share the ring with a thoroughly inept third man - one who was to let Cooney swing away at him freely when he was defenceless.

Tony Perez may have had some good nights as referee in the past, but his performance on May 11, 1981 was nothing short of disgusting. Ken Norton could very well have been permanently injured as a result.

Norton came out fighting in his usual way - with his left jab pawing out at his opponent and his right leg being dragged behind him. While Cooney immediately went on the attack.
In shockingly swift fashion, Gerry had the former marine in seriously bad shape. Very quickly it was apparent the bout was nothing more than a mismatch. Norton tried to fire back with his own shots, but he was totally outgunned. Cooney was unleashing powerful hook, after powerful hook - and they were all landing flush on Kenny’s jaw. Cooney then drove his hurt opponent into a corner and, utterly out of it, Norton was sadly subjected to some of the most brutal and unnecessary punishment ever witnessed in a prize fight.

Ref Perez should have been able to have dived in at the very least two or three punches sooner than he did. Instead, he let the half crouching target that was the devastated Ken Norton take potentially life threatening punches to the head. The carnage ended after a mere fifty-four seconds. Thankfully, Norton was not subject to serious injury.

The fight had succeeded in answering some questions. For example, Ken Norton had absolutely nothing left as a boxer, and Gerry Cooney’s punch power was capable of taking anyone out. But the big debate, as to whether or not Gerry could really fight at the top level, remained. Sure, he could whack, but what about when he fought some one who could whack back at him? Gerry’s chin was one big question mark all by itself. For now though, the fans were not too concerned with possible negatives - they had a new hero and he was the word excitement personified.

Tony Perez’s career as a top flight ref also carried on, however. And although he went on to officiate well on many occasions, he did have another exceedingly bad night in 1991. In similar fashion to the way his awful refereeing skills had been on display in the Cooney v Norton fight, Perez allowed the hard punching Ray Mercer to throw bomb after bomb at the out-on-his-feet Tommy Morrison. To have had one dangerously amateurish night is bad enough, but to have repeated the act for a second time is simply unacceptable. Both Ken Norton and Tommy Morrison were put in awful jeopardy due to his terrible work as ref.

Cooney-Norton, Mercer-Morrison: two fights that generated excitement, drama and repulsion. And to think, we moan and groan about the conduct and the capability of some of today’s boxing referees.

Article posted on 15.03.2012

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