They’re good friends now and have been for some time, yet back in 1982, Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney did not get along. At all. The epic, enormously hyped super fight Holmes and Cooney had will soon see its 40th anniversary – June 11, 1982. And Holmes, who spoke with Gary Newbon, confirmed he and Cooney will be hitting the UK next month – with appearances in London, Birmingham, and Ipswich.
Holmes recalled the fight, and the fact that it was a “white versus black fight.”
“A lot of people wanted to see the white guy beat the black guy,” Holmes said of the feelings many people had going into the fight. “I told Gerry, before the fight, don’t let these people get to you. Don’t let them, I ain’t gonna let them get to me. And when we touched gloves [in the ring before the opening bell], you know what I said to Gerry? ‘Let’s have a good fight.’”
It was a good fight, with both men pushing themselves as well as one another, but in the end Holmes’ class and experience won the fight, with Larry getting a 13th round TKO victory. It has long since been reported how then US president Ronald Regan had arranged to pipe in a call to Cooney’s dressing room if he won the fight. There was no such call set to be piped into Holmes’ dressing room in the event of him winning.
“Yeah, and I liked Reagan at that time. I didn’t like him no more,” Holmes said of the phone call issue. “Because, you know, they were all betting on Gerry Cooney, and I understand it, it was a black-white situation. They wanted the white guy to win and they wanted the black guy to win, on the black side. And that’s what I did. I went out there and I fought, I used all the little tricks that I had, and I let Gerry do what he could do and then capitalise on it. That’s what I did.”
Cooney was basically never the same fighter again, so badly he felt he had let the fans down by losing. Holmes of course went on to rule the division for the next three years, until he was beaten, controversially on points, by Michael Spinks in 1985. These days, Holmes and Cooney give back via charity work and both guys have a great biography out, with both books well worth reading. It should be some event for UK fight fans when Holmes and Cooney get together and take a stroll down memory lane.
Holmes is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight champions in history, while Cooney at his best was nothing short of lethal, his left hook a thing of beauty and destruction. Tickets may well move fast for the few evenings when Holmes and Cooney appear.