There are some things that are impossible to get rid of completely. Gum on the sole of your shoe is one. Apparently Gerry Cooney is another.
Unlike Franco, Cooney will not stay dead.
Cooney, who spent a vast portion of his boxing career not boxing, now says he wants to box again.
Against Michael Spinks.
For the heavyweight championship.
The IBF championship, of course. The WBC recognizes a different heavyweight champion, the ever-popular Pinklon Thomas, to say nothing of the WBA, which has Tony Tubbs (not to be confused with Sonny Crockett's partner, Ricardo Tubbs) as its champion. The IBM, GTE, TRW, IRT and BMT titles currently are vacant, but I have heard that Leon Spinks is about to sign for a shot at the DDS crown.
To prove his sincerity, Cooney reportedly is running.
Then again, Cooney never had a problem running. He did so much roadwork, he had to rotate his sneakers every 5,000 miles. He's probably the only boxer ever named AAA's man of the year. Cooney spent so much time on the road, his friends started calling him Willie.
Cooney's problem was boxing.
He didn't do much of it.
When he retired, on July 30, I was dumbfounded. I always thought Cooney had one of the all-time great jobs. We are now more than halfway through the 1980s, and in that time Cooney has fought 25 rounds. That's 75 official working minutes in nearly six years. (Cooney prepped for his 1982 title bout against Larry Holmes by fighting six rounds in three years. Why run the risk of coming in too fine?) You talk about flex time. Cooney didn't punch a clock. Every six months or so he waved at a calendar.
Is that a deal, or what?
Why would you retire from a job that gave you so much free time? Cooney was on a perpetual leave of absence.
Hi, this is Gerry Cooney. Just leave your name and number, I'll get back to you within five years.
At that pace, Cooney could have fought until he was 90.
They'd have called him The Great White Mope.
But Cooney pined too much for Larry Holmes and couldn't bear waiting around for Holmes to give him another shot. (Why would Holmes want any part of Cooney? Say what you will about Cooney having only a left hook, for almost 13 rounds he gave Holmes the fight of his life, and Holmes was never the same fighter after. Holmes has been freeloading off that fight for years.)
Cooney disappeared after the Holmes fight, which is why so many people thought his retirement announcement redundant. He kept promising he'd fight again, but a series of nagging injuries, best described as "ooh, poor baby has nasty boo-boos," kept him out of the ring for several months. (More than four, yes. More than 10, yes. All right, already, 27 months. Now stop hocking me for details.) When he finally fought again, he allowed Phil Brown (and his hook of renown) to model swimwear for three full rounds before knocking him out. Then, during the second round of his next fight, he introduced George Chaplin to the joy of horizontal living. Cooney was supposed to fight Eddie Gregg in December, and maybe Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin after that, but rather than keep on futilely chasing Holmes, Cooney quit, morose and brokenhearted.
Trick or treat.
"We're willing to fight winner-take-all," barked Dennis Rappaport, Cooney's manager. (Is he a sport. Cooney fights comfortably, if not exactly lyrically, at 225 pounds, whereas Spinks, at 200 like he was against Holmes, looks like he's been force-fed by Frank Perdue. Spinks is so beatable as an overstuffed light-heavyweight that every full-body out there, from Raymond Burr to Shelley Winters, is leaving messages on Butch Lewis' answering machine.)
Full of bluster, Rappaport said, "I wouldn't even consider $5 million" for Cooney's share of a Cooney-Spinks fight. Oh yeah? Where else is Cooney going to get $5 million now that he's retired? Or did I miss the announcement that CBS named Cooney to replace Dan Rather on the evening news?
To cash in on his title, Spinks has to fight somebody. He can drop down and resume fighting light heavyweight, but there's not much money there. He can try for the cruiserweight title. (Raise your hands all of you who didn't know there was a cruiserweight title. Think of a cruiserweight as an old, ugly toll bridge between two insignificant cities. Bernard Benton holds the cruiserweight crown. Barbi's brother.)
The big payday for Spinks is either Holmes or Cooney. Holmes has just about worn out his welcome. On the other hand, how much credibility does Cooney have?
It depends on how long Spinks wants to keep the title.
Holmes could win it back this winter.
Undoubtedly Cooney, as soon as the papers are signed, will suffer some kind of injury that will keep him out of training for the usual undetermined period, somewhere between six months and the time it takes to finish the Green Line.
Go ahead. Get some coffee.
We'll be here a while.