We all know Gerry Cooney hasn't been tested yet, but we know he can punch, he's big, and he's young. We also know that Larry Holmes has been hit, he has been getting hit, and he has slowed down a bit. I have a feeling in my bones that the whole stage has been set for a new man. Maybe I'm superstitious. I had that same feeling when Joe Frazier fought George Foreman. The way Foreman was knocking people out, the way Joe fought head on, I thought, 'Joe shouldn't fight him.' I didn't see how he could avoid getting hit. Foreman knocked him out.... The timing may be right again. That's why I'm not going either way. You can't sell Cooney short, but he hasn't been in a dogfight. It's a house dog against a street dog.... But don't bet the family jewels on Larry Holmes. It's a pick-'em fight.
—GEORGE BENTON, noted fight trainer
It's the night of June 11. In a ring set up in a 32,000-seat stadium in a parking lot at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, in the glare of the setting sun and the television lights, the WBC heavyweight champion of the world, undefeated Larry Holmes, starts forward at the sound of the opening bell. Holmes, 32, 6'3", 215 pounds, moves quickly to the center of the ring. Advancing toward him is the No. 1 contender, undefeated Gerry Cooney, 25, 6'6", 228 pounds.
By now many scenarios, each plausible, each with a logical conclusion, have been devised. Although Benton isn't alone in being unable to envision an ending that accommodates what he knows of these two men, the consensus is that the fight will follow one of two scenarios.
I believe that Cooney will flatten Holmes like a latke [potato pancake] within five. Larry's starting to show signs of deterioration. He's all right in the beginning, but then he starts to go apart. He moves around for one or two and then he stands stock still. When he's stationary and Cooney gets him in a corner, he's going to hook Holmes and knock him out. Cooney is the most devastating left-hooker I've seen since the era of Joe Louis.
—AL BRAVERMAN, veteran trainer and manager
In the first round the fighters cautiously circle each other while exchanging jabs. For one or two rounds, Holmes keeps his distance, moving but not dancing, trying to keep Cooney away with the left while setting him up for the overhand right. Cooney's jab isn't as fast as Holmes's, but it's harder and heavier, and, midway through the second round, he's beginning to tag Holmes with it.
Holmes begins to taunt his opponent early in the fight, abusing him verbally while waving him forward, but Cooney declines the obvious bait and continues stalking him, trying to cut off the ring. In the fourth round, Cooney connects with a really stiff jab. Holmes's head snaps back. Holmes tries to retaliate with a jab of his own, but it falls short of Cooney's chin. Because the challenger is three inches taller than Holmes, the champion is forced to jab slightly upward, thus exposing the left side of his body.
A converted southpaw, Cooney has spent years working to make a weapon of his right hand. He jarred Jimmy Young with it two years before, on his way to bloodying and stopping him in the fourth round, and he backed up Kenny Norton with the right on May 11,1981, before pounding him unconscious with left hooks down and up. Now, countering Holmes's jab, Cooney throws his right and catches Holmes on the left cheek, driving him against the ropes.
Holmes sags momentarily. Sensing the champion is hurt, Cooney rushes to him. Holmes covers up, elbows at his sides. But there is more side than elbow to cover it. Feet flat, Cooney spins his upper body to the left, and in one deft motion—his feet, knees, thighs and hips generating most of the power—he turns forward and brings the hook into Holmes's side, just beneath the bottom rib, and buries it into the liver. Pain, such as he has never felt before, branches through Holmes's body.
He begins to cave. Now Cooney turns and throws another hook, this one to the point of the chin, and Holmes crumples to the canvas. After struggling to his feet, as he did when Earnie Shavers and Renaldo Snipes decked him, Holmes takes a standing eight count. They might as well play taps, however, for no fighter in the division can finish a man like Cooney. He swoops in again, punching up and down with both arms. Cooney pounds the body with two more massive hooks, folding Holmes over, then brings another up to the unguarded chops. The blow snaps Holmes's head to the side. A right bounces him back off the ropes, and, as he pitches forward, in a final fury, Cooney chops him in the head with a last left hook. Holmes is out.