"Every time I went in to New York, it made the papers," he says. "It was all blown up. I mostly laid low and hung around my own place, because it was the one place I could go where people knew to leave me alone."
He was lost. By October he and Cohen were at each other's throat and Cooney asked him to leave. "We beat up on everybody else until there was nobody left to beat up on," Cohen says, "so we beat upon each other."
In October, CBS boxing commentator Gil Clancy, a former trainer and an old friend of Cooney's, drove out to Huntington to urge him to get back to the gym. Clancy brought his wife, Nancy, to Cooney's East Side for dinner, and he and the fighter rapped for hours. Clancy refused to go until Cooney had promised him he would return. "I'm not leaving here till you tell me when you're going back," Clancy said. Cooney agreed to resume training; he talked with Valle and had a workout at Gleason's Gym, but then he had second thoughts. "I didn't know if I was supposed to go back," he says, "so I took off a week. And came back again. Then I fought an exhibition in Texas. But I didn't know if I was ready for all the questions, every day 15,000 questions. Mike and Dennis were trying to make something, and I'd mess it up."
Cooney couldn't even keep an appointment with a psychiatrist. During the fall, Cooney and Rappaport had begun meeting, and Rappaport sensed Cooney needed professional help. "He was in chaos; he felt his world was crumbling," Rappaport says. "He was extremely tough on himself, putting himself through all sorts of guilt trips. He blamed himself for everything that happened." Rappaport suggested that he see a psychiatrist; Cooney said O.K.
Rappaport consulted the American Psychiatric Association in search of an older man—"I wanted a father-type figure"—for Cooney. He ended up with 10 names, which he gradually reduced to one. On the appointed day, Cooney bailed out. Rappaport fumed. "He got cold feet," he says.
"I said, 'Hey, I don't need this shrink,' " Cooney says. "By then I knew I was going to beat it, but I knew it was going to take some time."
His younger brother, Steve, had begun to see a difference around Christmastime. "He was like a different person," Steve says. "You could see it just in the way he carried himself."
"Maybe things adjusted in my head," Cooney says. "I don't know. I thought about it an awful lot. One day it just hit me and then I started feeling good."
Valle flew with Cooney to Sundance, along with Rappaport and Jones, and Georgie Munch, a friend Cooney has known since grade school. Cooney and Munch share a condo at Sundance with Richie Barathy, an instructor in karate and a black belt in seven styles of martial art. Barathy claims the world record for breaking slabs of granite with a single karate chop—six slabs, each 1¼ inches thick, set 1¼ inches apart. He'd worked for Cooney as a bodyguard in Las Vegas.
In the months when Cooney was avoiding Valle, he began working out—lifting weights but not sparring or even hitting the bag—with Barathy at Rab's, Barathy's gym in Huntington. Barathy is supervising a weight-training program designed in part to increase the strength and speed of Cooney's punches. "I figure that his punches will increase by 20 mph in each hand," Barathy says. "You can't imagine what it will do for him. Whether he's feinting, picking off punches or throwing hand weapons, it will all be done faster and more powerfully."