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Gerry Cooney on the most important lesson he ever learned

Gerry Cooney
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports
In his own words Gerry Cooney reflects on the heavyweight division today and in his own time

I identify in some ways with Dillian Whyte. He was used as the guy to test all these fighters out. And he’s supposed to get his shot but they’re all avoiding him. Everyone is ignoring him, even the sanctioning bodies. He’s the mandatory and he’s still not getting the fights he deserves.

In my day, Don King owned everybody. I couldn’t get the fights because he owned everybody and I wouldn’t sign with him. At the time I needed four or five of those guys to gain the experience so when I fought Larry Holmes I had a better shot. But I didn’t get that experience.

I was fighting once a year in my heyday and that sucked. It made me get distracted, made me get in trouble. It’s a frustrating, downheartening situation. Almost like they do it to wear you down purposely.

Gerry Cooney
Cooney did not feel prepared for Holmes Action Images

But the heavyweight division is coming back. It’s going to be exciting in the next couple of years.

On my radio show I said I was picking Anthony Joshua to knock Andy Ruiz Jnr out later in the fight. But I said this guy can fight. He’s going to test Joshua and we’re going to find out a lot about Joshua. We did. He didn’t know how to respond. You get dropped, you hold on. You stay close. You cheat, you breathe, you get your boundaries, you get your bearings back. You try to make it to the end of the round and then you go back to your corner. Hopefully they’ll tell you something.

Everyone can’t win all the time and we’re going to lose sometimes and it’s how we come back. He should not put too much time between him and the fight. You don’t want to talk yourself out of it. You don’t want to think too much on it. Get back in shape, get back on the horse, maybe make some changes in your game.

The great trainers have passed. These younger kids are coming around and they’re teaching a watered down version of boxing… It’s a watered down version of it and it can’t work.

If you teach the guy to be defensive and safe, and teach them how to fight, he’s going to last a lot longer. He’ll be more confident in himself, he’ll be able to do a lot more things in his life. That’s what we’re missing. You have to really keep growing, keep changing. Keep becoming more aware. When you stop becoming aware you stop growing.

I’m getting the word out, I want to train guys. I’ve got a great gym and I want to move into the game.

I wish I could have had someone that grabbed me by the arm the night I knocked out Ken Norton in one round and said, ‘stay with me.’ It’s important that we stay focused. I didn’t unfortunately and I got lost. So what a dream for me to be able to find a guy and take him past where I went.

I grew up in a rough Irish Catholic family. My father was a big drinker. There’s a lot of abuse that took place. I learned a lot of ‘you’re not good enough’, low self esteem, failure. I took that with me all my life. I hid behind it through fighting. It created a big hole right in my chest and I felt empty. When I first drank, the alcohol filled that hole and made me feel attractive, funny, confident. I drank for the next 20 years. A very big mistake.

I have a great life today, I have a great family. None of them have seen me take a drink or anything like that and I learned how to love myself and my family.

A big thing happened to me when I was younger. I heard somebody say, ‘can you help me?’ And I thought, ‘wow, you can say that.’ And I’ve been asking that question ever since. And now I have a chance every day of my life to help somebody else to get to that place where I always wanted to be.

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