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'It ain't about racism and prejudice' | Gerry Cooney on his boxing career

Eoin Harte
Eoin Harte

05:25 10 Jul 2019


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Irish-American boxing legend Gerry Cooney was on Off the Ball and spoke about his famous fight with former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Larry Holmes.

The lead up to the fight was very racially charged, with Cooney being labelled as ‘The Great White Hope’ as if he won he would have become the first white World Heavyweight Champion in 22 years.

White supremacist groups announced that they intended to shoot Holmes when he entered the ring while black groups said they would have armed members there in case Holmes was attacked.

Cooney however, said that he did his best to ignore the racism that surrounded the fight.

“I never got caught up in that racism. This thing with race is coming up, white and black and all that stuff. I got letters from the Ku Klux Klan, Holmes had his mailbox blown up and so I’m thinking it’s him. I’m really angry, I’m angry at this guy.

“And so all I want to do is hit him with one solid left hook. That’s how mad I was, I never felt that way. I always had the butterflies leading up to fights. This one I had no butterflies, I just wanted to hit him with a hook,” Cooney said.

"Hey Gerry, let's have a good fight"

When the two men entered the ring however, Holmes said to Cooney, ‘Hey Gerry, let’s have a good fight,’ which took away much of the anger the Irish-American had brought into the fight.

“That’s what boxing is about. It ain’t about racism and prejudice and all that. It’s two men trying to get the prize,” Cooney explained.

Cooney lost the fight after his coach threw in the towel during the 13th round and believes that he went into the fight too inexperienced to be able to deal with Holmes.

“Larry Holmes talks about it today that had I fought Mike Weaver first and got that experience I probably could’ve beat him. But I’m going to tell you now, Larry Holmes was one of the best fighters in history. He was so smart and so patient, he waited and he was cute.

“Really what I needed was maybe three or four more fights before the Holmes fight to gain that experience. Don King owned all those guys and didn’t want me to gain that experience because I wasn’t signed to him, I was only signed to myself.

“But that being said, my managers also didn’t care about me fighting other guys because they wanted to make their big payday, unbeknownst to me," Cooney said.

He only fought sporadically after his fight with Holmes, retiring in 1990 after a fight with the legendary George Foreman while Holmes went on to defend his world title another eight times before losing to Michael Spinks in 1985.

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