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Starting Up The Long Road Back
William Nack
March 28, 1983
Consumed with shame at losing to champ Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney dropped out. Now he's boxing again
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March 28, 1983

Starting Up The Long Road Back

Consumed with shame at losing to champ Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney dropped out. Now he's boxing again

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He exploded, saying, "Goddammit! I don't want to hear that name mentioned around here anymore."

Deeply hurt, Valle slipped into a depression of his own. He stopped talking to Lola and so disrupted the household that his son, Victor Jr., a boxing trainer himself, appealed to him. "Pop," he said, "you've got to snap out of this. You're making the family miserable."

Lola finally fell ill. "Victor would talk to me very rough, or he wouldn't talk to me at all," she says. "I was very depressed. All I did was sleep. It didn't make any difference to me if I lived or died." In September she began a month-long stay at Gracie Square Hospital in Manhattan, suffering from "severe depression."

Cooney didn't want to face the pressure he knew Valle would bring to bear on him. When he finally screwed up the courage to call Valle one day last fall. Valle told him to either get back to the gym or announce his retirement. "You owe that to the people," Valle said. Cooney told him that he wanted to fight again but didn't want to be pushed.

"Nobody's pushing you," Valle said. "Don't be foolish. Get into that gym. The faster you do it, the better it will be. Get into condition."

Cooney said, "Pop, I'll be there. Give me a few more days."

"He didn't show up for weeks and weeks and weeks," says Valle. "That's when I got mad. I was telling newspapers that he was coming in next week. And then next week—no Gerry. No Gerry.

"He was making me look like a fool. I was very, very hurt because he didn't call me. When he didn't come to the gym, I was very annoyed. It bothered me that a smart kid like that would stay away so many months just because he didn't know how to accept defeat. I have never seen a kid act that way. A man of 26 should have a little more common sense.

"He wished that this had never happened. I told him, 'You cannot bring back the past. You have to learn how to erase it and bury it.' He thought he couldn't lose.... He was too sure. The defeat was a terrible thing on his mind. It snapped."

One might have thought, reading the newspaper gossips last summer and fall, that Cooney was doing his training at Studio 54 and Xenon with debutante Cornelia Guest, actress Valerie Perrine and country and western singer Tanya Tucker. In fact, he says, he knew them only in passing and had an affair with none of them.

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