Joe Frazier & Gerry Cooney

What a shame these two giants of the division, lethal punchers both, never collided. What would have happened if Joe Frazier and Gerry Cooney met in ring centre and traded bombs? Both men, one a true great, the other a star who cae close to reaching the top, left carnage in their wake: Frazier in the late ’60s and early ’70’s, Cooney in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And both men were blessed with a wicked left hook; a punch that, as one boxing publication put it, was capable of severely damaging body parts.

But who had the better, more destructive left hook, “Smokin’ Joe” or “Gentleman Gerry?”

Both guys either set up or finished off most of their opponents with this naturally acquired punch, and without this in the arsenal, Frazier and Cooney would undoubtedly have been lesser fighters than what they became. But again, in forgetting all the other attributes both warriors possessed, whose left hook was superior, Frazier’s or Cooney’s? At first thought the name of Frazier screams out in answer to such a question. The Philly great was clearly the superior fighter; he was a long-reigning world champion and he defeated such luminaries of the sport as Jerry Quarry, Jimmy Ellis, George Chuvalo and, of course, Muhammad Ali.

Whereas the towering Irish/American never scaled the dizzy heights that Frazier did, he was never world champ and though be defeated a man who at one time had been – in Ken Norton – he never fought the quality of opposition Frazier did.Yet Gerry’s left hook was a thing of frightening beauty. Capable of flattening any fighter it made contact with, Cooney’s left handed wrecking ball caught the attention of many in the boxing world.

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As for Frazier’s left hand killer, everyone knew, some firsthand, how good a punch it was. Ali, in the “Fight of The Century” in 1971, was put on his back by the blow. That pretty much sums up the shot’s effectiveness. But Cooney too, put good men on the canvas with his key weapon. The aforementioned Kenny Norton, in a frighteningly brutal fifty-four seconds, was annihilated by it. And though Norton was way past his best at the time, that’s not the point. Cooney’s left hook is. If it had landed in such a manner on the peak Ken Norton the same thing may well have happened.

Of course, there are many factors that go into landing a punch, however good it is at getting results when it does so. Frazier was superbly adept at bobbing and weaving his way inside so as to go to work with the hook, for example. While Cooney, bigger and slower, was not so. But in terms of one punch power with the left hand, both men come up pretty even. In short, IF Cooney’s left hook landed, his opponent was in trouble. Even when aged thirty-three and engaging in his first fight in two and a half years, the incredibly ring-rusty Cooney was able to hurt and wobble the teak-tough George Foreman. The punch that did it? His left hook. The power and accuracy of Cooney’s trademark blow was indeed his best serving asset in the ring. As it was Joe Frazier’s.

Both men were blessed with the punch, as is any fighter to possess proficiency with the left hook. Such a punch cannot be taught to a fighter. He either has it or he doesn’t. One of the most naturally timed and thrown pieces of offence there is in boxing, the left hook is something that is unaffectedly acquired. Both Joe Frazier and Gerry Cooney well and truly had an innate ability at putting men down with their perfectly launched left hand when throwing it in a hook. And though they were vastly different fighters on many other levels, when it comes to this punch they were definitely similar. So whose was the best? On balance, Joe Frazier’s was. Yet in terms of power per square inch, effectiveness when landed flush, speed and timing and other intangibles, Cooney’s was on a par.