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Volume 1-2016

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ABOUT RAR: For those of you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites. Use this link to visit the RAR music page, which features original music compositions and other.

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Currently on RARadio:

"On to the Next One" by Jacqueline Van Bierk

"I See You Tiger" by Via Tania

"Lost the Plot" by Amoureux"

Bright Eyes, Black Soul" by The Lovers Key

"Cool Thing" by Sassparilla

"These Halls I Dwell" by Michael Butler

"St. Francis"by Tom Russell & Gretchen Peters, performance by Gretchen Peters and Barry Walsh; 

"Who Do You Love?"by Elizabeth Kay; 

"Rebirth"by Caterpillars; 

"Monica's Frock" by Signel-Z; 

"Natural Disasters" by Corey Landis; 

"1,000 Leather Tassels" by The Blank Tapes; 

"We Are All Stone" and "Those Machines" by Outer Minds; 

"Another Dream" by MMOSS; "Susannah" by Woolen Kits; 

Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and other dead celebrities / news by A SECRET PARTY;

"I Miss the Day" by My Secret Island,  

"Carriers of Light" by Brendan James;

"The Last Time" by Model Stranger;

"Last Call" by Jay;

"Darkness" by Leonard Cohen; 

"Sweetbread" by Simian Mobile Disco and "Keep You" fromActress off the Chronicle movie soundtrack; 

"Goodbye to Love" from October Dawn; 

Trouble in Mind 2011 label sampler; 

Black Box Revelation Live on Minnesota Public Radio;

Apteka "Striking Violet"; 

Mikal Cronin's "Apathy" and "Get Along";

Dana deChaby's progressive rock

 

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Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page

ATWOOD - "A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance" -AVAILABLE NOW FOR KINDLE (INCLUDING KINDLE COMPUTER APPS) FROM AMAZON.COM. Use this link.

CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects the building of America in a trilogy of novels collectively calledATWOOD. Book One explores the development of the American West through the lens of public policy, land planning, municipal development, and governance as it played out in one of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious and cultural traditions that imbued the American Midwest with a special character that continues to have a profound effect on American politics to this day. Book One creates an understanding about America's cultural foundations that is further explored in books two and three that further trace the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as an icon in the development of a certain brand of American character. That's the serious stuff viewed from high altitude. The story itself gets down and dirty with the supernatural, which in ATWOOD - A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliveranceis the outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the monumental to the sublime. The book features the epic poem "The Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am offering another novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado, 1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.

It is a ripping good yarn, filled with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950, when the story is set. Richard Padilla has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns. Use this link.

 

EXPLORE THE KINDLE BOOK LIBRARY

If you have not explored the books available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You will find classic literature there, as well as tons of privately published books of every kind. A lot of it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published books are awful, but some are truly classics. You can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works for two bucks.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves atNOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.


 

 

ARTIST NEWS

In a week in which the United States is seeing more Black citizens shot dead by police, and in which White police officers have been ambushed by snipers and killed on the streets of Dallas, and in which still more attacks are threatened by Black activists fed up with police treatment of the Black community, the CCJ is taking a break from light entertainment to consider a key event in our long, painful struggle to deal with race relations in this country.

As the 1982 WBC Heavyweight Championship fight between Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney amply illustrated, we have had a hard time in the U.S. with our national conversation regarding Black-White relations. That has been a defining element throughout the entire cultural history of our nation, since Africans were first brought in chains to America in 1619. The sport of boxing has always been our most eloquent expression of our human struggle to not only face down those who would diminish the quality of our experience with life, but perhaps also to control our meaner instincts and whatever voices inside govern our inclination to follow dark angels. Fighters deal with all of that, and they do it standing nearly naked in a ring surrounded by impassioned stakeholders, each of whom has something personal riding on the outcome of their primal encounter. With Holmes-Cooney, the nation got a moment of catharsis, and a reassurance that everything could be all right.

Key Moments in Western Culture

The Holmes-Cooney Fight

 

 

By RAR

Gerry Cooney, like the rest of us, was living in a special space in 1982. The world was right on the cusp of another of those seven-year cycles, in which our experience of life goes through fundamental change, fragmenting families and communities and further rending our sense of shared experience. Fashions, styles, sounds, manners, behaviors, technologies, entertainments – everything that was familiar to us in the 1970s was changed by the time we reached the early 80s.

Our sense of modernity had been transmogrified by the advent of cable television, and by new media offerings like the Cable News Network (CNN), Music Television (Mtv), and an ever-growing list of television alternatives. This would ultimately destroy the monopoly that the legacy networks CBS, NBC and ABC had long-enjoyed over the American television audience, and it would marginalize what had been unifying forces for generations of viewers by virtue of having provided all there had been to watch on television. We had all watched major historical events together, like the events of 1963 surrounding the Kennedy assassination, followed shortly thereafter in 1964 with The Beatles appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, and we had shared important cultural touchstones like “All In the Family”, “Laugh-In”, and “Saturday Night Live”. Television had always had its detractors, but with the proliferation of Cable TV channels, the notion of the “boob tube” was consigned to the past, overwhelmed by a wave of niche programming that sometimes seemed pretty smart, and in that process a new era of media absorption was born. Television sets started to proliferate in peoples’ homes, installed in bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. Kids, watching in the isolation of their bedrooms, would start referencing programs that their parents had never heard of, and would never watch. “Beavis and Butt-Head” comes to mind, and so new models of behavior emerged.

After the dourness of the late-70s, when the Carter Administration had encouraged Americans to live austere lives, President Ronald Reagan represented a sense of renewed energy in America, even if by 1982 Reagan’s Budget Director David Stockman was beginning to call his boss a “sunshine boy” for enacting tax cuts that would soon thereafter need to be reversed to recover economic stability. Reagan had an overly-rosy view of America’s economic health and promise, but he was becoming embroiled in covert actions and an arms scandal that were of a piece with the period. There was a sense in the early 80s that everyone had a scam going; that people were finding ways to profit around constraints, and that winners were making money and leaving others behind. In fact, people started to think of low income people as something less than just mere unfortunates, uncharitably preferring to think of them as “losers”. Cocaine had become the sine qua non of recreational drugs, and people were enjoying that edge. There was an embrace of money and excess, and going against that grain felt unfashionable. Punk music, analogous in its anti-establishment sentiment to the Folk of the 60s and early 70s, had come and gone, but its echoes seemed to spur a counter-insurgency expressed through synthesizers and Disco beats. Music coming out of the United Kingdom began to dominate the airwaves, in a time when few knew that radio was in its dying throes, soon to be replaced by Satellite transmissions such as Sirius XM (1990). New Wave music was unabashedly Gay, in many respects, and it contributed to a shift in public perception and a new openness toward alternative lifestyles and homosexuality.

The one area that seemed to show a retrograde motion was Black-White relations, and this was reflected in Reagan Administration policies. Reagan, for some reason, chose to begin his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, near a site where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964. He appointed conservative judges Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, and from that platform he carried out an assault on civil rights policies, including affirmative action programs and voting rights. He slashed funding for the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), that provided needed assistance to Black people. He sought a tax exemption for Bob Jones University, a racist college, and backed Senator Jesse Helms in his assertion that Martin Luther King was a disloyal American. Reagan popularized, among some Republicans, the idea of black women as “welfare queens”, and he championed the idea that Black leaders were “doing very well leading organizations based on keeping alive the feeling that they're victims of prejudice."

* * * *

Twenty-six-year-old Gerry Cooney was the World Boxing Council’s #1-ranked Heavyweight in 1982. A six-foot-five boxer, with a great left hook, he was well-known in amateur boxing circles, having worked his way up from a gangly middleweight to become a heavyweight contender. Encouraged by his father to get into boxing, the Long Island native won two New York Golden Gloves Championships, including the 1973 160-lb Sub-Novice Championship and the 1976 Heavyweight Open Championship. He had won international tournaments in England, Wales, and Scotland, and by the end of his amateur career had compiled a record of 55 wins and 3 losses.

When Cooney decided to turn professional, he fell under the tutorship of veteran trainer Victor Valle, who had six decades of experience with top-ranked fighters. He had guided the careers of champions Alfredo Escalera (junior lightweight), Esteban DeJesus (lightweight), and Billy Costello (superlightweight). Valle saw the 225-pound Cooney as a guy who could win the heavyweight championship if he was brought along carefully, and that he did, carefully selecting Cooney’s opponents and developing almost a father-son relationship with his fighter. Valle used to sing “Danny Boy” to his Irish-Catholic liege in the dressing room before fights, changing the words to “Gerry Boy”.

“Gentleman” Gerry Cooney won his first twenty-five professional fights, recording 19 knockouts or technical knockouts, and along the way his managers Mike Jones and Dennis Rappaport turned him into a media figure in the New York City market. Cooney was doing national television commercials by 1980, becoming known as a sort of “great white dope” because the amiable giant had a kind of a marketable Joe Palooka quality that worked. He seemed sweet and sensitive. Though media exposure puffed up Cooney’s celebrity profile, in boxing circles Cooney was not viewed as a threat to any of the top heavyweights of the time, all of whom were Black in a period where Blacks dominated the heavyweight division.

Cooney had largely established his winning record on easy victories over nobody fighters, though he had also defeated some legitimate pros in Charlie Polite, former US heavyweight champion Eddie Lopez, Tom Prater, and John Dino-Denis. What Cooney needed to establish legitimacy as a contender were victories over big name Black heavies, and his first stop along that journey came against Leroy Boone. The 216-pound Boone came into the fight with 12 wins and 3 losses. He was a good fighter, though just a training step along the way toward getting Cooney paydays with bigger names and better competition. That said, Boone was a guy who had never been knocked off his feet, so he would offer a challenge that Cooney, the wannabe champion, needed to face.

Cooney was unusually tall for a fighter of his time, preceding an era in which heavyweights would become even bigger. Only the six-foot-nine-inch Primo Carnera came to mind to boxing commentators who struggled to describe Cooney’s physical profile, which was tall but lacking in muscular definition. Cooney had that kind of body that just does not get buff. He didn’t look like a boxer, in many ways, or even like a guy who hit the gym regularly. He seemed to have more hair on his chest than he had  biceps or triceps, and perched atop long, skinny, white legs, Cooney seemed cartoonish, like a caricature of an old school pugilist. His looks were deceptive, because he was devastatingly powerful and carried a pulverizing punch.

Cooney entered the ring against Boone wearing emerald green trunks, which boasted an Irish shamrock emblem. The buzz in the arena was electric and in their corners both fighters pawed the matt like bulls readying to charge, obviously affected by the enthusiasm of the crowd. The fight got off to a miss-start when Boone and Cooney engaged before the opening bell, and they had to be chased back into their neutral corners to start the fight again properly.

As Gerry Cooney was rising up through the amateur weight classes, he had been trained stylistically to fight as a “boxer”. Styles mean everything in boxing, and fighters develop their skills along certain well-defined lines of discipline, based on what they bring to game.  Some are “sluggers”, like Mike Tyson, whose style was all about extreme aggression and knockout power. Many of those types will work inside to the body, but there are perimeter sluggers, as well, like a Tommy Hearns. Other fighters are “tacticians”, like Evander Holyfield, who analyze their opponent’s skills and adjust their game accordingly, fighting inside and out. The “boxer” is often the showiest of the lot, which is what made Cooney’s choice to fight in that style seem so odd. Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.  were boxers. Those guys were extremely athletic, quick and agile, none of which are traits one would ever associate with the lumbering Gerry Cooney, and yet there he was, a graceless giant fighting cautiously from the outside of the reach of his shorter opponents. Cooney used his long left jab to steadily wear down the defenses of his combatant, patiently waiting for an opening to step in and to the left, and then to throw his trademark left hook.

Cooney was geared to deliver his left as a hybrid punch, part upper cut, that could be aimed at the jaw, but was often delivered with devastating effectiveness to his opponent’s liver. It seemed as if he had been physically gifted for this one punching motion, when his body mechanisms miraculously worked in perfect unison to create a brief moment of ultra-violence. It was the punch that you always knew was coming from Cooney, the inevitable punctuation at the end of each brutally long sequence of jabbing statements.

For most of the first four rounds of the Leroy Boone fight, Cooney was satisfied to patiently deconstruct Boone’s defenses, firing his heavy jab right through Boone’s gloves, held high before his face. Boone was hoping to counterpunch, because he saw what a lot of fight fans saw, which was that Cooney was not a great defensive fighter. Cooney wasn’t that quick, and if you could get inside his reach, you could find opportunities to land high and low, and late in the fourth round Boone launched such an inside attack.

Boone nailed Cooney with a barrage of well-directed shots to the head but Cooney didn’t fold, and so there answered was the big question that hangs over the heads of every heavyweight fighter: can he take a big punch? Cooney had shown that he could, at least one coming from Leroy Boone.

Cooney not only took the punches, but he returned a barrage of his own, and when he returned to his corner at the end of the round he seemed visibly to be enjoying himself. It was as if Boone’s assault had snapped him out of a sleep state and the brawler within him had been happily awakened.

However much Cooney may have wanted to go into full attack mode, the Boone fight showed that he was an uncommonly disciplined fighter. In the fifth round, Cooney resumed the patient sparring style that had characterized most of the fight up to that point, other than for the last minute of the previous round. What did change was that Cooney started setting down on his left hook, digging hard to Boone’s mid-section, and occasionally firing an effective straight right. Almost exclusively a left-handed power puncher, Cooney’s right was an arm punch that he could spot effectively, but it lacked knockdown power.

In the sixth round, Cooney resumed his patient demolition of Boone until a left hook to the liver caused Boone to double in pain, and for the referee to call an immediate halt to the fight. Cooney had destroyed a legit Black heavyweight, and he was ready to move up in class.

* * * *

Jimmy Young had been fighting professionally since 1969, and he was a talented tactician who had lost a disputed title decision to Muhammad Ali in 1976. As a fighter, Young was called “the cutest guy in the business” for his expert ring generalship. He surprised opponents, lulling them into traps and striking with athletic precision. Young could only be beaten by best-in-class fighters, and in a long career that included 19 losses his record reads like a history book of his era of boxing. All the big names are there.

By the time Young fought Cooney in 1980, he was well-past his prime and he lacked the power to go toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweights of the era. He was, however, a highly-respected pro and another important step along the ladder in Cooney’s ascendancy in the division.

Young came into the fight in good condition, his career on the line. Cooney came into the fight with a mustache, which made him look like a guy from the bare knuckle era of boxing.

In the first round, Cooney attempted to box with Young as he had with Leroy Boone, but Young was too savvy. He parried Cooney’s jab and then worked inside, landing shots before darting back out of danger, and robbing Cooney of the tactic known to work against Young, which was to go to his body. Cooney couldn’t get there, but rather was reduced to missing shots to Young’s elusive chin, and that pattern continued through the second round.

At the end of round two, Cooney’s corner men complained that Young had thumbed their fighter in the eye, and Cooney came out for round three with aggression. Young smothered Cooney’s attack, and Cooney went back to his pattern of jabbing, while Young kept ducking inside and scoring.

Late in round three, Cooney fired an upper cut that caught Young on the brow and opened up a cut above his right eye, and Young seemed immediately to be in trouble. While Young shook his head, trying to clear his vision from the blood running down his face, Cooney pounced for the kill, firing a barrage of combinations, some of which got through Young’s cocooning defense.

With a minute left in the round, Jimmy Young started landing low blows, probably intended to stop Cooney’s assault, though he did not get a warning from the referee. Young backed Cooney into a corner and controlled him, lasting out the round.

Cooney came out aggressively in round four and while Young exchanged with him he became blinded by the blood pouring into his eyes. Young’s corner called the fight at the end of the round, and so Gerry Cooney had faced a difficult challenger and prevailed on the strength of his lethal uppercut.

Cooney came away a richer and wiser man. He had learned the value of the well-timed low blow, which was a sneaky add to his fighter’s tool kit. Cooney’s uppercut left had a way of landing south of the beltline without drawing the attention of referees: a good trick to have in his bag in the event that an opponent needed to be slowed.

* * * *

Ron Lyle was a Denver-based fighter with a 39-6-1 record when he faced Cooney. A former gang member, he had done seven-and-a-half years in the Colorado State Penitentiary for second degree murder before starting an amateur boxing career, eventually turning pro. Lyle was a big puncher who had scored victories over big names including Jimmy Ellis and Ernie Shavers. And, if Gerry Cooney’s marketability as a heavyweight contender was contingent upon him beating a big-name Black fighter, Ron Lyle was at the very heart of that darkness.

Lyle came into the fight at 6’3½” tall and 211 pounds. He turned out to be exactly the kind of fighter whose style would be neutralized by Cooney’s outside game. Where Jimmy Young had been able to game Cooney and get inside, Lyle looked lost, floundering from afar and taking jabs, along with Cooney’s deft left-upper cut and his occasional straight right to the body. In the last minute of the first round, Cooney moved Lyle into the ropes and he delivered a steady, patient barrage of right and left hooks to the body and the head, and with only seconds left he delivered a left-hook to Lyle’s liver that caused Lyle to collapse between the ropes, draping onto the apron, finished.

* * * *

Gerry Cooney often seemed like a one-handed fighter, like all he could do was throw his left. His right was accurate, but of a lesser order in his arsenal, and that was because he was a left-hander by nature. Somewhere along the way, someone had trained him to fight orthodox, but his dominant arm remained his left, so he had the perfect weapon to use against a right-handed opponent.

Cooney’s demolition of Ron Lyle had earned him the kind of respect that he needed to leverage his celebrity and gain a shot at a heavyweight title. He had one person left to get by to reach the #1 rank in the WBC and thereby get a mandatory shot at the title held by Larry Holmes.

Ken Norton, who had been fighting professionally since 1967, was the guy who Holmes beat to win the WBC title that Cooney now wanted. Hollywood handsome, Norton became nationally known by having beaten Muhammad Ali, breaking Ali’s jaw in 1973 before losing in two rematches. He was on the down side of his career by the time he met Gerry Cooney in May, 1981. It would be Norton’s last fight.

Cooney came out quickly and tagged Norton with a straight right, following up with a barrage of left hooks and rights until, 54 seconds into the first round, Norton was put to sleep, slumping onto the bottom rope like a guy waiting for a bus.

* * * *

Gerry Cooney had earned his shot at Larry Holme’s World Boxing Council Heavyweight Championship belt, but the champ was going to make him wait for it.

Fighting professionally since 1973, Larry Holmes had beaten every big name fighter of his era. This included Ernie Shavers, Ken Norton, Mike Weaver, Alfredo Evangelista, Ossie Ocasio, Lorenzo Zanon, Muhammad Ali, Trevor Burbick, Leon Spinks, and Renaldo Snipes. Despite this extraordinary record of accomplishment – he was 39-0 when he met Cooney – Holmes was never accorded the level of respect that had been accorded other great heavyweights, most notably Muhammad Ali.

In truth, Holmes suffered by being directly comparable to Ali, which made him seem more like an imitator than a visionary boxer. Holmes had been Ali’s sparring partner and had clearly gone to school on Ali’s moves. Ali had spotted Holmes when the younger fighter was an amateur and Ali had brought Holmes to Ali’s training site in Pennsylvania, where he paid him $500 a week to work as his sparring and training partner. The two had similar size and range, and they were of similar skill levels. Ali knocked out 61 percent of his opponents, while Holmes knocked out 59 percent of his.

Where the mentor and protégé differed was in the area of charisma. Even as he was defeating the biggest names in the profession, Holmes demonstrated a dispassionate, disengaged, workman-like attitude that seemed flat and boring, while also more than a little condescending. He often seemed disrespectful of his opponents, while he only occasionally flashed his own considerable skills in any impressive display of boxing artistry. None of this endeared him to the boxing world, and he was frustrated by their displeasure, once verbally attacking one of boxing’s most cherished personalities, proclaiming that Rocky Marciano couldn’t have carried his jockstrap.

To get to Larry Holmes, you had to go through Don King.

Holmes was a principal asset to Don King promotions, which presented Holmes’ fights in his championship years. Holmes always said that he never made any money in boxing until he became associated with Don King, but the flamboyant King came with a lot of baggage. King had dropped out of Kent State University to run a bookmaking operation. He had killed two people, one ruled a justifiable homicide, while the second got him a second degree murder conviction. He had stomped an employee to death over a dispute involving $600. King was to spend four years in prison, but letters of recommendation from Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, George Voinovich, Art Modell, Gabe Paul, and other high profile celebrities earned him an early release. Resurfacing as a boxing promoter, he promoted the careers of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Julio César Chávez, Ricardo Mayorga, Andrew Golota, Bernard Hopkins, Félix Trinidad, Roy Jones, Jr. and Marco Antonio Barrera. Almost all of those fighters would eventually sue him for defrauding them, but King settled most lawsuits with pay-offs and avoided felony fraud convictions.

King’s ethics problem extended to the narratives that he was willing to spin to promote his big money bouts. He was a marketer, a brand builder, who gave the world "The Rumble in the Jungle", the "Thrilla in Manila", and other recognizably branded events.

King’s promotional strategy for the Holmes-Cooney fight was a sign of the times, and an example of gross irresponsibility in the pursuit of riches. King is still around today, a Donald Trump endorser who thinks Bernie Sanders should be Trump’s Vice President. Like Trump, King would throw gasoline on an out of control fire if he thought it would get media coverage, and that is exactly what he did in marketing the Holmes-Cooney championship fight.

King promoted the fight as a racial spectacle, a disrespected Black champion going against a Great White Hope. No White man had held the heavyweight title for 22 years at that time, and King toured Holmes and Cooney around the country to attend press conferences and promote the clash. The media darling Cooney was on the cover of Time Magazine. Celebrities became obsessed with the event, as did White supremacist groups who announced that they would have snipers at the event to shoot Holmes as he entered the ring. That prompted Black groups to announce that they would have armed members on hand to defend Larry Holmes from attack.

By the time Holmes and Cooney met, in the parking lot at Caesar's Palace, police snipers were positioned on the roofs of all of the hotels surrounding the event site, ready to respond if any of the proposed violence actually happened.

* * * * *

In a new age of hyper media, and in a period when race relations were in a difficult new phase, Holmes and Cooney became pawns in an evil enterprise; one that exploited xenophobic fear using powerful new tools of audience manipulation. Larry Holmes, in the Don King narrative, came to symbolize a Black community that the White world would not recognize, and would not allow to achieve its potential and its promise. Cooney, dubbed the Great White Hope, became symbolic of dumb White America, and the segment of White society most threatened by upwardly mobile Blacks. Cooney had been uncomfortable with the fight promotion, saying that race had nothing to do with the fight, that “we are all Americans” and so he won the broader PR battle as the fight date approached, but there were complications. Tension between the Cooney and Holmes camps grew more personal until finally there was public acceptance of the notion that Cooney and Holmes hated each other. That helped turn the event into a box office bonanza, including a closed-circuit Pay Per View revenue stream for the live fight, and rebroadcast rights sold to HBO, which ran the fight a week later.

Eleven months passed between the time that Cooney beat Ken Norton and the date when he finally got his crack at Holmes. Part of the period of inactivity was intentional, with Cooney avoiding tune-up fights for fear that a wildcard loss would cost him his shot at Holmes’ title. Other delays were health related, as at one point the fight was scheduled and then rescheduled for a later date after Cooney hurt his shoulder in the gym. Some fight fans opined that Cooney was scared, looking for an excuse not to fight Holmes, and so the tension between the two fighters continued to grow. While Cooney was sitting on pins and needles, biding his time, Holmes fought and beat two more name opponents: Leon Spinks, who had beaten Muhammad Ali, and Renaldo Snipes, who knocked Holmes down before finally losing to him. That incident created doubt in some that Holmes, at 32, was still the real deal, despite his unbeaten record. After Snipes, Holmes went into the gym for six months of preparation before he finally met Gerry Cooney for the WBC Heavyweight Championship.

* * * * *

On June 11, 1982, Gerry Cooney entered the outdoor arena at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, where the temperature at fight time hovered at more than 100 degrees, to the theme from the fight film Rocky. He had grown in his public stature and become the fan favorite, though he was the underdog in the fight. Fight analyst Howard Cosell touted Gerry Cooney as being 6’7” and taller than the aforementioned Primo Carnera, which was probably based more on Cosell’s perception of the magnitude of the fight than on any late growth in the still-young Cooney. Dressed in Irish green, Cooney entered the arena, addressing fans along the way, cracking jokes and seeming to be relaxed. Holmes entered to the Disco sounds of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, trotting down the aisle to the ring, apparently anxious to get on with the contest that he had predicted he would win in 7 rounds, or maybe in 4 if Cooney engaged him.

Diminutive Nevada District Attorney Mills Lane, who had officiated many championship fights, was the third man in the ring and he looked tiny standing between the two big heavies. Announcing the fight for HBO, Howard Cosell wondered if Lane would be physically large enough to control the two fighters.

Waiting in their corners for the bell to sound, signaling the start of the first round, Holmes bounced up and down like a giant spider monkey, while Cooney rocked back and forth like a gorilla in a zoo cage.

ROUND ONE: At the bell the two fighters approached and they immediately fell into a pattern that would characterize much of the rest of the fight, with Cooney coming forward, Holmes moving adroitly left and right, firing jabs and moving; Cooney jabbing, hooking, sometimes connecting.

For the first half of the first round, Holmes looked too fast and accurate for the patiently plodding Cooney, but then Cooney landed a left to Holmes body and the fight started to change. Cooney threw a right to the body and then landed a left below the belt. It appeared unintentional, but shortly thereafter it happened again. Cooney threw hooks to Holmes’ ribs that Holmes blocked with his arms, leading Howard Cosell to suggest that Cooney’s power could make Holme’s limbs grow numb, as Rocky Marciano had been known to do to opponents feeling his thunderous barrage.

Cosell’s invocation of Marciano’s name played to the narrative for the event, that this was a fight between an unpopular Black champion, who had insulted a beloved White champion, and a Great White Hope who was calling him to account for his actions.

It seemed apparent in the first round that Holmes felt and was affected by Cooney’s power. He switched his tactic, limiting his exchange to jabs and staying away from Cooney, obviously uncomfortable with letting Cooney get to his body. Just before the end of the round there was a flurry in which Holmes landed a shot squarely on Cooney’s jaw, and it didn’t seem to hurt him at all. Holmes must have returned to his corner wondering, if Cooney survived that shot, how he was going to keep the Irishman at bay.

Between rounds, Cooney’s mentor Victor Valle implored him to use the double jab, and he warned Cooney against wild exchanges with the champ. “This guy isn’t shit!” Valle told his fighter, but “be patient!”

ROUND TWO: For most of Round 2, Holmes circled Cooney, firing jabs, avoiding Cooney’s right leads, jabs, and left hooks, but mostly avoiding the ropes. Cooney had a reputation for destroying opponents that he could trap on the ropes, and Holmes kept moving laterally to negate Cooney’s attack, stopping occasionally to fire a sharp volley, before moving again. Then with a little more than a minute left in the round, Holmes nailed Cooney with an overhead right that sent Cooney lurching to the canvas. It looked like the doubts the fight world had about the upstart Gerry Cooney – the Great White Dope – were going to be well founded, but Cooney wasn’t done.

With 30 seconds left in the round, Cooney stood up on rubbery legs, looking like a guy who might be ready to go, but he suddenly recovered himself. Cooney seemed to clear his head and as the round drew to an end he seemed to take control over Holmes, firing jabs and lead rights and clearly winning the final half-minute of the round.

My take, when the fighters went to their corners, was that Holmes probably had a 10-9 and a 10-8 round on his ledger, a 2-0 lead in rounds, and was well on his way to defending his title.

ROUND THREE: At the start of Round 3, Holmes squared up with Cooney and the two exchanged jabs until Cooney once again landed a below the belt shot that made Holmes go back to his circling strategy. Cooney scored again to the body, again landing a shot that appeared low, and Holmes was clearly uncomfortable with those body shots. He stayed at such a range that he couldn’t land his own long jab, but Cooney pressed him and at one point he landed a series of left hooks to Holmes’ head and the look on Holmes’ face turned to one of real concern. Cooney began to stalk Holmes, landing another low blow that seemed to warrant a warning from Mills Lane, but none came. Cooney continued to score, following Holmes around the ring, and Holmes seemed to be losing control of the fight. Bruising appeared around Holmes right eye, where he had been absorbing Cooney’s hook. After getting nailed with an uppercut left, Holmes began to fight back in an effort to regain advantage, standing in front of Cooney and looking for another opportunity to land his overhand right, which he did at one point but to no great effect. Cooney won the third round, so by my estimation was down 29-27, 2 rounds to 1.

ROUND FOUR: Holmes came after Cooney to start the fourth, standing flat-footed in front of him and looking to exchange until Cooney again caught him with a shot to the body that made Holmes decide to resume his jab-and-move game. Occasionally he would set for an exchange but Cooney kept scoring, particularly with his much under-appreciated right hand. Cooney was getting off first and it seemed to throw Holmes out of his rhythm. For the last 30 seconds of round 4 Cooney landed to the body and head and when Holmes went back to his corner he looked deflated. On my card, Cooney had pulled even in rounds, and was down only 38-37 in points under the 10-point must system.

ROUND FIVE: Cooney was clearly gaining in confidence, and he practically leaped out of his corner at the start of Round 5, going after Holmes with his stiff jab. Fight commentator and former Welterweight Champ Sugar Ray Leonard surmised that the age difference was beginning to show, as the 25-year old Gerry Cooney seemed energized while the 32-year old Larry Holmes was looking a little tired and a lot like a guy who didn’t want to get hit anymore.

For the first two minutes of Round 5, Cooney stalked Holmes, nailing him with jabs and body shots as Holmes retreated away, firing almost no punches at all, obviously reluctant to do anything other than defend against Cooney’s measured onslaught. Inside the one-minute mark, Holmes scored with a couple overhand rights, one as solid as that which had floored Cooney in the second round, and then with fifteen seconds remaining Holmes threw a nifty left-right and spin-away combination that seemed to remind him that he had skills. After getting beaten for most of the round, Holmes finished the 5th bouncing on his toes and looking like a re-energized guy. On my score card, the fight was 47-47, with Cooney winning 3 rounds to Holmes’ 2.

ROUND SIX: Round 6 felt much different from how rounds 3 through 5 -- the Cooney rounds -- had felt. Holmes had clearly experienced some shot of energy and confidence, and he came out in Round 6 looking in charge. As discoloration grew around Cooney’s left eye, Holmes exhibited athletic quickness, using his deft jab, and moving, neutralizing Cooney’s attack. But then, about a minute into the 6th, Cooney nailed Holmes with a right that made Holmes’ legs go rubbery for an instant, and then Cooney moved into stalking mode again while Holmes went into retreat. He landed a right into Holme’s ribs that sounded like a bass drum and you could see energy drain from Holmes’ aging body.

Cooney won exchanges with Holmes, but with 30 seconds left in the round Holmes landed another overhead right that made Cooney’s legs go rubbery. He staggered around the ring as Holmes continued to pummel him, almost going through the ropes at one point before he was able to grab hold of Holmes to stop him from throwing punches. When they broke, Holmes went for the kill but as the bell rang at the end of the round Cooney landed a left that sent him back to his corner thinking he could still win.

Round 6 might have been scored a draw, which would have made it 57-57 as the two fighters went to their corners to prepare for the 7th round of a scheduled 15 round fight.

ROUND SEVEN: Cooney came out for Round 7 with Vasoline covering a cut by his left eye and he was ready to exchange. He threw a beautiful straight right that just missed, but then hit Holmes with another low left hook that finally got him a warning from Mills Lane. It had the effect it had all fight, as Holmes retreated and moved rather than standing in one place to take more punishment. The two exchanged at the center of the ring before Cooney landed another left hook to Holmes’ body that again echoed like a bass drum. He followed with two more and Holmes retreated, staying at a distance, often carrying his hands low until Cooney pulled back within range. Cooney nailed Holmes with another hook to the body, but instead of wilting Holmes suddenly started bouncing on his toes, again showing an inexplicable ability to re-energize, at least in spurts.

Cooney kept coming, despite Holmes show of confidence, and he scored with both hands while Holmes missed with a winging right before getting caught with another low blow that brought another warning from Mills Lane. In truth, Cooney should have been penalized by this point, because he had been landing low blows all night, and it had been having a significant influence on the fight with Holmes retreating to recover after each blow, becoming ineffective as an offensive force in the process.

I believe the 7th round could have been scored even: 67-67, with Cooney still ahead 3 rounds to 2.

In Cooney’s corner, Valle implored Cooney to get inside of Holmes’ jab, to crouch and go in low, which was not really his fighter’s forte. Cooney’s cut near his left eye was not looking good, and Valle feared the doctor would stop the fight before Cooney could stop Holmes.

ROUND EIGHT: In the 8th, Cooney kept coming forward, trying to move in on Holmes, who continued to circle outside, sometimes stopping but losing brief exchanges before going back on his bicycle. Cooney landed body shots, and right leads to the head, but Holmes didn’t seem hurt by them as he had in the earlier rounds. It seemed as if the steam was going out of Cooney’s punches, but he kept coming forward in a patient, deliberate way, and firing big shots.

In the last 20 seconds of the round, both fighters landed but neither seemed affected by the other’s power.

Round 8 had Cooney landing more shots. He may have moved ahead 4 rounds to 2, and 77-76. On the other hand, Holmes was giving the impression that he was fresher and under control, so who knows, the judges may have seen it differently. As it turned out, it wouldn’t matter.

ROUND NINE: In the opening moments of the 9th round, Cooney nailed Holmes with shots to the head, but Holmes didn’t seem to be hurt by them, and then Cooney’s cut opened and blood started pouring down the left side of his face. Cooney attacked with a combination, perhaps sensing that his ability to remain vital was draining away.

At the 1:30 mark in the round it began to appear that Cooney couldn’t see out of his left eye, and Holmes hit him with a lead right. Cooney kept coming, but most of his shots were being blocked by Holmes’ arms, held high between them. Cooney landed a left hook to Holmes’ jaw that in the early rounds might have removed his head, but at 1:20 in the round he was no longer feeling that Cooney had any power remaining.

With about a minute left, Larry Holmes landed a straight right, which for some reason caused Mills Lane to rush between them to look at Cooney, perhaps expecting to see a need to stop the fight and have the cut looked at. Inexplicably, he darted away as quickly as he had come between them, and the fight continued.

With less than 30 seconds left in the round, Cooney hit Holmes with a left hook way south of the belt line and Holmes doubled over in pain. Mills Lane jumped back in to pause the fight to give Holmes time to recover, and to send the fighters to their corners.

While Holmes was in his corner recovering from the foul, his trainers gave him water and doused him to refresh him, while all the while Cooney stood on the other side of the ring getting no aid at all, and looking like a guy who had been in a car accident. His face was bruised into a darkening blue mask of damaged flesh, but he stared hard at Holmes like a guy who was on a mission and who was prepared to go out on his shield.

Holmes seemed fine when the fight resumed, and Cooney came right after him, throwing power hooks and a right, not with the zip he had earlier, but still threatening.

Cooney probably won the round, but a point penalty for the low blow made it even. On my card, Cooney was leading 86-85, with Cooney up 5 rounds to 2.

In the corner, Cooney expressed concern about his cut, to which his trainer said “Don’t worry about it.” In Holmes corner they pleaded “Don’t let this guy take it away from you!”

ROUND TEN: At the start of the 10th, both fighters exchanged, with Holmes landing a good straight right and Cooney taunting him before returning a volley of punches. The two exchanged until Cooney got the better of it, landing two more low blows in the process, and Holmes retreated and then put Cooney in a bear hug.

Cooney landed a straight right but though it was on the chin, Holmes didn’t move. They exchanged jabs, and then Cooney landed another combination that included low blows to the body. Cooney seemed to get stronger and he hit Holmes with some shots that jarred him. In fact, in Round 10 Cooney was landing punches at something like a 4-to-1 ratio to those landed by Larry Holmes. At one point, Cooney landed eight consecutive shots before Holmes suddenly nailed him with a lead right. The two exchanged big blows, with Holmes landing four giant right hooks to the head in the final 20 seconds, but Cooney kept throwing and landing.

When the bell sounded for the end of the round, the two fighters brushed against one another and touched gloves in a way that said these two now had each other’s respect, however much bile may have been spewed in the buildup to the event. Gerry Cooney had proven to the world that he was no bum. And Larry Holmes had shown what had always been undeniable about him, which was that under that dispassionate demeanor beat the heart of a lion, the will of a champion.

The round may have been even, which would have made the score 96-95 Cooney, with Cooney still up 5 rounds to 2.

ROUND ELEVEN: Cooney’s corner did a tremendous job on the eye, and he came out for Round 11 looking better than he had in a few rounds. The two came together and exchanged punches. Cooney hit Holmes with another low blow and Mills Lane immediately deducted another point from Cooney’s score.

Holmes seemed to rest for the first two minutes of the round, with Cooney firing and scoring while Holmes was satisfied to play defense, marshall his energy, and watch for an opening for the lead right, which had been his best punch all night. Cooney continued to fire and score, landing a couple more low shots that got him another lecture from Mills Lane. Then, with 30 seconds left in the round, Holmes went on the attack with an eye on stealing the round, but he wasn’t effective. Cooney was fighting better defensively than anybody thought he could, slipping Holmes’ big punches.

If the round went to Cooney, he was up 106-104 and 6 rounds to 2.

I noticed a minor change in Cooney in Round 11. Tired, he began to have moments where he would come out of his fighter’s stance, moving his right foot forward so that he was squared up with Holmes, which put him in a bad defensive position. Sometimes tired bodies don’t behave the way you would want, and Cooney’s was starting to have a mind of its own.

ROUND TWELVE: When Round 12 began, Cooney was still slipping into that stiff-legged, upright posture, not really a fighting stance but rather a pose his body chose for him out of physical exhaustion. Cooney began punching in slow motion, and Holmes saw that and he sharpened his jabs. Cooney kept coming, occasionally surprising Holmes with a rapid combination driven by energy that seemed impossible for Cooney to summon, and yet there it was.

In the last 15 seconds of the round, Holmes reopened Cooney’s cut, hitting him with six hard lead rights.

Holmes probably won the round, pulling within one to 115-114, trailing 6 rounds to 3, with 3 even.

In Cooney’s corner, Victor Valle pleaded with Cooney “to get rough with this guy”, as if the previous 36 minutes of low blows and shots to Holmes’ head had been mere introduction. In Holmes corner he was told, frankly, “We need these rounds!”

As Cooney rose from his stool, Victor Valle chided, “You waited too long for this guy!” It was as if he knew the moment had passed.

ROUND THIRTEEN: It was still 89 degrees when the fighters got slowly up from their stools to start the 13th round. They resumed the same steady, patient exchange of firepower that they had exhibited the whole fight, with Holmes landing a shot and Cooney coming right back with more.

Cooney’s face looked a mess again, his cut torn back open by Holmes’ jab. The two fighters kept exchanging big shots and then suddenly, visibly, all of Cooney’s remaining power drained from his body and he appeared to be staggering, out on his feet.

Holmes saw it and attacked, landing combinations for the first time all night. Cooney lost his balance and fell back into the ropes.

Mills Lane stepped in, apparently to start a knockdown count though Cooney had never gone to the matt, but before he could start it Cooney’s trainer Victor Valle leaped into the ring with a white towel and stopped the fight himself, saving his Gerry Boy further damage.

Larry Holmes had successfully defended his WBC Heavyweight Championship.

Celebrating in Holmes corner were Don King and Jesse Jackson.

POST-FIGHT: “I’m still the baddest heavyweight in the world and it’s time for you to give me some credit,” Holmes said to the fight analyst Larry Merchant in a post-fight interview. Holmes spoke respectfully of Cooney’s all-around fighting skills, suggesting only that he needed to improve his chin. The fight, after all, had come down to one thing: Larry Holmes’ ability to survive the shots of a super heavyweight. Holmes spoke articulately about having followed through on his plan to counter Cooney’s punches.  “I think I mastered everything that Gerry Cooney had,” he told Merchant. “I am a great boxer, Larry, and the world know (sic) it.”

Cooney was humble after the fight, respectful. “Larry Holmes is the champion of the world,” he acknowledged. Cooney said that going into the 13th round told him that he could be a 15-round fighter, meaning someone who could fight for championships, but something about Cooney’s quiet and sensitive little boy voice seemed to say that he was done, that this fight with Holmes had been it for him. It would be 27 months before he would fight again, beating the undefeated Phillip Brown by TKO. Two months later, he beat another good fighter, George Chaplin, also by TKO. Cooney then disappeared for another year-and-a-half before knocking out another good fighter, Eddie Gregg. A year later he lost to the undefeated Michael Spinks, before fighting one last time, 30 months later, against the resurgent George Foreman. He lost those fights by technical knockout and then retired.

Whatever pressures Holmes and Cooney must have felt, and however much they had been encouraged by their promoters to disparage one another, both came away from their fight with a genuine mutual respect. Both fighters confronted their doubters and performed at levels beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected. Heavyweights don’t usually throw and land the number of punches that Holmes and Cooney had. There in the parking lot of Caesar’s Palace they put on a show for the ages.

As a media event, Holmes-Cooney mercifully ended with all the flash of a Sunday dinner with grandma, with everyone being civil and polite. As a fight, it earned its spot right up there with the most memorable in the history of the heavyweight division.

 

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