Gerry Cooney v Ken Norton - 54 Devastating Seconds In 1981!

07.08.06 - By James Slater: Kenny Norton still looked the part. His muscular physique was as impressive as ever and going into his fight with the green and untested Gerry Cooney, most experts thought he would give the latest "White Hope" a reasonably tough fight, while at the same time providing an answer to the question - could Cooney really fight? Ken was thirty-seven to Gerry's twenty-four, but still, no-one could have possibly predicted the utterly frightening destruction job "Gentleman Gerry" was to do on the former heavyweight champion.

Some say Norton looked afraid when making his ring entrance, and, as things transpired, he had a right to be somewhat tentative. Not only was he about to take some of the big punching Irish American's blows flush on his chin, he 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 Ken 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 out-gunned. 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 subject to some of the most brutal and unnecessary punishment ever witnessed in a prize fight. Perez should have dived in at least four or five 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.

Norton, as expected, went on to do the sensible thing, and retired. While Cooney's big chance came the following year. Still untested at the highest level, Gerry challenged heavyweight champ Larry Holmes. And despite giving it a good go, in a fight that proved he did possess a decent chin, he was battered to defeat in thirteen tough rounds. Unfortunately, his career all but ended afterwards - with only a handful of further bouts fought.

Tony Perez's career as a top flight ref 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.

Tony Perez should be forever thankful that neither man was permanently damaged as a result of his inefficiency.

Article posted on 07.08.2006

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