ON this day in 1982, heavyweight king Larry Holmes defended his world heavyweight title against unbeaten puncher Gerry Cooney. Known for his nickname of “The Great White Hope” and for his lethal left hook, Cooney was on his way to becoming the next boxing superstar. If he could take Holmes’ crown, Cooney would be the single biggest fighter in all of boxing. A star-studded audience gathered in Las Vegas to see if the towering Irish-American could do it.
Movie star Sylvester Stallone was ringside, as was movie and music legend Frank Sinatra. While the President of the United States no less, Ronald Reagan, was all set to pipe in a call to Cooney’s dressing room if he won (this is the legend anyway, and there were supposedly no plans for Reagan to call Holmes if he won). A good deal of the attention this fight attracted was definitely down to Cooney. Fans and experts may have respected Holmes as a good or even great fighter, yet he had neither the crossover appeal nor the sheer popularity Cooney enjoyed.