It was 32 years ago today that Gerry Cooney stopped Jimmy Young to become a top contender in the heavyweight division on May 25, 1980. As Cooney previously shared with Boxing 101 in Part I of our anniversary series, this victory was the highlight of his career as it set the wheels in motion for his rise within the heavyweight division en route to a future shot at the championship against Larry Holmes in June 1982. This installment of VHS Classic Rewind revisits this moment, the first of Cooney's three top fights during that period.
The 23-year old Cooney (22-0, 18 KO's), known for his big left hook and imposing size, was making his national television debut. He made quick work of carefully chosen opponents, never having to go beyond eight rounds and typically registering fast knockouts. He had quickly gained attention as a future contender and a victory against the experienced Young would affirm the young Cooney's position in the rankings.
While Cooney was fighting to develop his budding career and get a future title shot, the 31-year old Young (25-9-2, 9 KO's) was fighting to stay relevant. He had only been stopped once in his 36-fight career by Earnie Shavers in his eleventh professional fight. After fighting to a controversial draw in a rematch with Shavers and defeating contender Ron Lyle, Young earned a title fight against Muhammad Ali in April 1976. Young lost a controversial one-sided unanimous decision.
Young rebounded from this loss with another victory over Lyle and a unanimous decision over George Foreman, but fell into a skid after losing a decision to Ken Norton in a WBC title eliminator fight in November 1977. The former contender had lost four of his previous seven fights heading into the Cooney bout.
Cooney pressed the action early with his jab and some left hooks to the body. As Young came forward, Cooney delivered quick, sharp left uppercuts that landed through the veteran's guard.
After sustaining a minor abrasion over his left eye, Cooney came out aggressively for Round 3. Midway through the round, the undefeated slugger threw a three punch combination that was set up by vicious blows to the body followed by a quick left uppercut.
Young immediately started pawing at his face as the uppercut opened a cut on the left side of the bridge of his nose that streamed blood into his right eye. This ignited Cooney who instantly went after the cut and started brawling, committed to throwing the left uppercut that had given Young so much trouble. The round ended with both men throwing toe-to-toe short punches on the inside.
A determined Cooney put all of his 224½ pounds behind his shots in Round 4, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the bloody but game Young. Cooney nailed him with a big right hand followed by a bombardment of left hooks and uppercuts that Young could not see coming. By this time, a blood soaked Young was moving backwards and trying desperately to defend himself while constantly pawing at his eye.
The fight was stopped at the end of Round 4, solidifying Cooney's ranking as a top contender and handing Young only his second career stoppage loss.
Cooney continued to be carefully managed before facing Holmes three fights later over a two year period, including a :54 second destruction of Norton. This fight will be featured in the next installment of VHS Classic Rewind as we approach the 30-year anniversary of Holmes vs. Cooney.
This loss marked the end of Young's career for all intents and purposes. He continued to fight but essentially became a tune-up opponent for emerging contenders such as Greg Page, Tony Tucker and Tony Tubbs. He retired in 1988 with a record of 34-19- 2, 11 KO's.
Young died at the age of 56 on February 20, 2005 of a heart attack.
Although he never regained prominence in boxing after the Cooney fight, the only two heavyweights who were ever able to stop Young in 55 career bouts were Shavers and Cooney.
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