Then, one cold night in December, Cooney and four pals were arrested in a bar at a Holiday Inn in Harrisburg, Pa. They were taken away in handcuffs and charged with disorderly conduct. When asked about this episode last week, Cooney replied with a grin, "They arrested me, all right. Now let me tell you what happened. Some friends of mine and me had watched a football game on TV and then gone to dinner. Later we went to the Holiday Inn, and I was in the bar signing autographs. One of my friends didn't feel well, and the bar manager said he could go sit in a small room at the back. Another friend, George Kaplan, who is 61 and a diabetic, went with him. This cop comes in and starts yelling and arguing with George and then arrests them both for no reason.
"I'm still in the bar signing autographs. Another friend, Robert Wesnofske, who is an ex-cop himself, goes out to see what they have been arrested for. He gets hit over the face with a blackjack or something and he is arrested. Then somebody comes in and tells me there's a phone call for me in the lobby. I say, 'Nobody knows I'm here.' I go out and I see one guy all bloody, and they handcuff me. They said it was for my own protection."
However innocent Cooney & Co. may have been, the outcome of the case was this: In January, Cooney agreed to fight a charity exhibition in Harrisburg, in return for which the charges against him and three of his four pals were dropped. The fourth, Wesnofske, pleaded guilty to two charges of disorderly conduct and was fined $600.
In the midst of Cooney's bouts with trouble and doubt, a turning point in his boxing career occurred, as he tells it, when Michael Spinks upset Holmes for the IBF championship last September. Cooney watched the first two rounds on television, and then he switched off the set. He felt sick. "They were doing what I should have been doing. Fighting," he says. "I've always wanted to fight. I love to fight. It's just all this other bull——the politics that I hate. It's all crazy. The actual fighting, I love that."
Cooney started training again last November in the erroneous belief that he could reenter boxing with a title fight against Spinks. Not surprisingly, that didn't come to pass, so Cooney took on Gregg. And now, if he's to' be believed, he's ready to take on the world.