Former heavyweight contender coming to N.L. looking for answers

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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World Boxing Council champion Larry Holmes (right) delivers a flurry of blows to challenger Gerry Cooney during the 13th and final round of their championship fight,  June, 12, 1982 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Cooney is coming to N.L. soon to connect with his roots. — File photo by The Associated Press

The fight of boxer Gerry Cooney’s life was for the heavyweight championship against Larry Holmes in 1982.

The flight of his life could come late next month, when he travels to Newfoundland to explore his roots.

“There’s a lot of questions I have that we have no answers to,” he says.

Cooney’s father, Arthur, was from the Placentia area and he left at young age, after joining the merchant marines.

The former fighter doesn’t appear to know much else about his dad’s youth, saying he’s only ever been able to collect bits and pieces.

“He worked hard to support six children,” Cooney says. “It was a hard life. I wish I could have known him better.”

Arthur Cooney worked as a steelworker in the New York area, like many others from this province.

He died when Gerry was just 17, a few short years before his son punched his way into contention for the heavyweight belt.

In 1982, “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney fought Holmes, the World Boxing Council champion.

The hard-punching boxer was dubbed “the Great White Hope” by promoter Don King because there hadn’t been a white heavyweight champ in decades.

The bout, in front of almost 30,000 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, went 13 rounds.

It was stopped when Cooney’s trainer entered the ring because he felt his fighter had enough.

Besides Holmes, during his career, Cooney also touched gloves and traded blows with George Foreman, Michael Spinx and Ken Norton, who he dropped in 54 seconds in 1981.

Besides learning more about his Newfoundland family, while here, Cooney plans on visiting some local boxers, with young people and some police officers.

He also intends to golf and view a landscape he’s talked about seeing for years.

“I’ve always wanted to get up there,” he says, adding he’s been as far as Nova Scotia. “It’s like a dream come true.”

Officials in Placentia are helping with Cooney’s itinerary.

The boxer earned millions in the ring, and the sport no doubt set him up for the future.

He’ll turn 57 Aug. 23 and is married with three kids.

He co-hosts “Friday Night at the Fights” on Sirius XM Radio. He works with more than 40 charities annually and visits an orphanage a couple of times every week.

He still trains himself, and others, to take part in fund-raising exhibitions.

And he travels and does speaking engagements.

“I have a great life,” Cooney says.

And that great life might feel even more complete if he gets some family questions answered in Newfoundland late next month.

“It’s a connection I’ve always wanted to make,” he says. “I can’t wait.”

 

Gulp! Gerry Cooney also offered to go six or eight rounds with Steve Bartlett, who can be reached by email at sbartlett@thetelegram.com. On Twitter, he’s @TelegramSteve.

Organizations: World Boxing Council, Great White, Sirius XM Radio

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Placentia, New York Las Vegas Nova Scotia

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  • Larry Dwyer
    August 12, 2013 - 19:02

    Mary Ellen Foley used to live behind our house in grand falls / Thought all the foleys were from Tilten ,Fogo

  • Sheila Gale
    August 12, 2013 - 15:12

    I just wanted to say my grandmother was Mary Ellen Foley from Argentia Nl and my father told me she was your fathers cousin,just thought it might be some help my grandmother married a Greene and one of her sisters married a Bruce all from Argentia,wish you luck..Sheila