ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., JUNE 14 -- Gerry Cooney looked enormous and Michael Spinks looked nervous as the two heavyweights weighed in today for their 15-round nontitle bout Monday night in Convention Hall. The 6-foot-7 Cooney weighed 238, the 6-2 1/2 Spinks 208 3/4. Cooney was all smiles, Spinks drummed his feet anxiously during the formalities in a casino theater.

Cooney is a 6-5 favorite based on his size advantage and the punching power of his left hand. He has won 24 of 29 bouts by knockout, the only defeat a 13th-round knockout by Larry Holmes in 1982. Since then, Cooney has fought just three times, scoring three quick knockouts against mediocre opposition.

Spinks has a 30-0 record, but this will be only his fourth fight as a heavyweight. In the past 19 months, he has upset Holmes in a 15-round decision to win the International Boxing Federation title; successfully defended the title against Holmes in another 15-round decision; and then against Steffan Tangstad by a knockout. Spinks was stripped of the title for fighting Cooney instead of an IBF-selected opponent.

A live crowd of about 16,000 is expected to see the fight, which is scheduled to start about 10:30 p.m. But closed-circuit ticket sales around the country, including at Capital Centre, have been slow. Explanations for the absence of interest have included Cooney's inactivity, Spinks' lack of flamboyance and the fact that no title is at stake.

Nevertheless, it's a crossroads meeting for both fighters. Each is 30 years old, and each will weigh the most he ever has. Cooney openly covets a meeting with World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council champion Mike Tyson, and to ensure it, needs a victory, preferably an emphatic one. Even with a victory, Spinks' future is less clear. He has expressed weariness from giving away so many pounds to heavyweight opponents.

"Like in my case right now," Spinks said recently, "I'm outweighed by 30 pounds. You can have talent coming out of your ears, but this guy lands this extra 30 pounds and that's the fight."

The question is whether Cooney can catch up with the much faster Spinks. Or will Cooney wear himself out and be subject to a knockout? Spinks' trainer, Eddie Futch, has said, "Cooney can be hit with a right hand."

Futch, 75, knows about Cooney. He was in Holmes' corner when Holmes knocked out Cooney. "We've seen Cooney knocked out," said Futch, "and the man who knocked him out doesn't punch as hard as Michael does. I worked for both of them. There's been no time Larry has been able to punch as hard as Michael.

"Jack Dempsey, at 187 pounds, knocked out Jess Willard, at 240. Joe Louis, at 192, knocked out 255-pound Primo Carnera. So it's not size, it's the power."

The opposing point of view has Cooney taking out Spinks the minute Spinks stands still or gets caught trying to score points. Cooney has knocked out eight opponents in the first round, and the only time he ever has fought past eight rounds was when he lost to Holmes.

"I got an education {against Holmes}," Cooney said, "and I feel I will take that education into this fight."

Cooney is confident he will have the stamina for a late-round knockout, or to go 15 rounds if he has to. A victory could lead to a 1988 bout with Tyson. Tyson will be a heavy favorite to unify all three titles when he meets IBF champion Tony Tucker Aug. 1.

No one is surer Cooney will defeat Spinks than Tyson's comanager, Bill Cayton. Cayton flatly predicted a Cooney victory over Spinks, adding that Spinks will "never, never, never" fight Tyson.