The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Star puncher Gerry Cooney met former world title challenger Ron Lyle in a classic young tiger Vs. old lion match-up. Cooney, seen by many as a future heavyweight king, put his lethal left hook to frightening use, in doing so proving how dangerous it can be if an ageing slugger sticks around in the ring too long. Cooney held a 23-0 record when entering the ring with Lyle. Former prison inmate Lyle was 39-6-1. With a combined 47 KO’s between them, both heavyweights were of course considered big punchers. 24 year old Cooney was actually getting used to facing veterans, his fight with 39 year old Lyle sandwiched in-between fights with 31-year-old Jimmy Young and 38-year-old Ken Norton. As would be the case with Lyle, Cooney stopped both big names.
Lyle had also been in with Young (twice) losing decisions on both occasions, as well as another common opponent in Gary Bates – who he had KO’d in the third round; a round quicker than Cooney had KO’d Bates. Lyle badly needed a win over Cooney lest he face sliding into obscurity. The ageing slugger had been stopped three fights previously to facing Cooney, when the little-known Lynn Ball scored a second-round TKO over him. As things turned out, Lyle would not box for almost fifteen years after swapping leather with Cooney. Not that Lyle had the chance to exchange many punches with Cooney.
The younger, bigger and faster man came right out on the night of October 24th 1980, with Cooney soon trapping Lyle in a corner and unloading his vaunted left hook to head and body. It was a wicked left to the body that ended matters, with Lyle spilling out through the ropes and coming to rest on the ring apron with just 11-seconds remaining in the opening round.
Cooney impressed T.V commentator “Sugar” Ray Leonard, who remarked how he thought “a lot of heavyweights will respect Gerry Cooney from here on out.” Leonard had also remarked how he felt Lyle had “looked trim” and was in shape for the fight. Amazingly, the soaring Cooney would win just four more fights before hanging up his gloves. Gerry would ice Ken Norton in 54-seconds in May of 1981 and would then lose his title challenge of Larry Holmes in the summer of 1982. Following the 13th-round TKO loss to Holmes, Cooney would box only sporadically – winning three comeback bouts across the years 1984 to 1986, and then losing to Michael Spinks in 1987 and George Foreman in 1990.
Lyle would retire after being blitzed by Cooney, only to launch a bizarre comeback in 1995, when aged 54! Lyle would box four times against limited opposition, winning all four by stoppage. Lyle said he was chasing a rematch with George Foreman, who he had rumbled with in an epic fight in 1976. “Big George” had miraculously regained the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles in late 1994. Foreman was not interested in a return meeting with his old foe.
Sadly, Lyle passed away in November of 2011, aged 70, from complications from a sudden stomach problem. His final ring record reads: 43-7-1(31).
As for Cooney, the 63 year old is doing great today. His recent biography selling well, a possible movie of his life in the works, Gerry is a happy and contented man. For a while there in the early ’80s, Cooney really did look to be unstoppable. Ironically, after beating up on so many “old men,” it was a 41 year old George Foreman who turned things around and ended Cooney’s career in devastating fashion.