The Magic in the Eyes: Gerry Cooney, former heavyweight boxing title contender


What Gerry Cooney knows now about boxing is so much more than he knew when he was fighting. It’s why he’s passionate about giving back to the sport and he’s hoping he can help some people find themselves along the way. What made him a great boxer can be taught but what makes him a great person has to be found within.

We’re back with Season 3 of Your Corner Man with what’s sure to be a highlight of this season. Former heavyweight boxer and title contender “Gentleman” Gerry Cooney stops by the podcast to talk about his path to currently being a trainer and how he started boxing in the first place. Over the next hour, you’ll hear about how Gerry’s family, and his father in particular, led him to the gym, how fear played a part in him missing out on Olympic dreams, how his career was impacted by not being promoted by Don King, the fateful heavyweight title fight against Larry Holmes, and what it meant to him to train.

Gerry is a great storyteller and, while the current pandemic is stopping him from training fighters in his gym in New Jersey, he’s still finding ways to get his lessons out there. Gerry isn’t afraid to talk about his upbringing and the mistakes he’s made in his life, making his message more powerful. In his book, Gentleman Gerry: A Contender in the Ring, a Champion in Recovery, he highlights his personal journey and important life lessons he’s learned along the way. Anyone who listens this week will earn a better understanding of what it means to love yourself and to communicate with others.

There’s plenty to take away from this episode, including the differences between training amateur fighters or professional fighters, how to train a fighter who isn’t quite ready yet, and how being in the zone is “the best feeling in the world”. We even do a little shop talk, breaking down the upcoming Lomachenko/Lopez fight. This episode is about training and finding out the best ways to be yourself, no matter who you are.


1) Don’t let fear of failing stop you from going for something you really want.

2) You have to be prepared or you won’t be sharp. It’s that simple.

3) Inner dialogue is something deep seeded, and the right mentor can help keep you on track.

4) It doesn’t hurt you to be thankful and humble. It comes off well and helps you relate to people.

5) When you’re protecting someone, you’re harming them in the long run. You have to put them up against an opposition and see how they’ll do.

6) It’s okay to ask other people’s opinions about your performance.

7) You can’t teach everyone the same way. You have to adapt to help them learn how they learn the best.

8) You have to be honest with people. What may seem like a tough conversation can be the best thing for them.

9) If you can’t get through to someone, it may be okay to let them fail and see how they pick themselves up.

10) There are skills that you can learn in many ways. Keep your mind open, as an experience you may not think would be beneficial could help you greatly.

11) Don’t let intimidation stop you from working hard and trying.

12) Give those around you the opportunity to be who they are.

Gerry Cooney Career Accomplishments

  • 28-3 with 24 KOs in his career

  • Ranked one of the 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time by The Ring

  • Author of Gentleman Gerry: A Contender in the Ring, a Champion in Recovery

  • Owner of Gerry Cooney’s Boxing Academy in Scotch Plains, NJ

Key Conversation Takeaway

  • 1:43 - How wanting to get out of his house started Gerry’s boxing career

  • 4:44 - How fear of not being good enough took away an experience that could have made him a better fighter

  • 7:13 - Dealing with fear before fights

  • 9:35 - Being prepared properly for a fight aka the Magic Eye

  • 13:19 - Why the loss to Larry Holmes was the night he gained the most experience

  • 15:45 - How Don King impacted his career by not being his promoter

  • 19:09 - What his trainers gave him at the times he needed them

  • 20:57 - Why he’s a better fighter now than then

  • 22:10 - How to train a kid who can’t fight right away

  • 25:17 - His sobriety and how it powers him

  • 29:46 - The differences between amateur boxing and professional boxing

  • 34:15 - A breakdown of Vasyl Lomachenko’s attributes and his upcoming fight versus Teofimo Lopez Jr.

  • 40:45 - What Gerry does during a fight now

  • 42:05 - The lessons Gerry wrote about in his book and what he’s hoping people take away from it

  • 52:00 - Ways to hear more from Gerry

Notable Quotes

  • 2:18 - “Boxing was a way for me to express how angry I was.”

  • 4:15 - “No matter what my father was, he made me who I am today. He gave me the courage and the strength to get where I am today.”

  • 7:57 - “You get halfway to the ring and the crowd comes alive and you’re in the zone and it’s the greatest feeling in the world, when you’re in the world class zone where you can feel magic. You cannot wait for that bell to ring, so you can perform.”

  • 11:05 - (on losing focus before Larry Holmes fight) “I wish I could’ve had somebody grab me by the arm and say, ‘Hey Cooney, listen, come with me. This is really important.’ And I didn’t. And I pray that one day I’ll have that opportunity to give it to somebody else.”

  • 14:08 - “I appreciate everybody I’ve met in my whole life, good and bad. I traveled the world. I touched people. I got touched by people. I cannot tell you how great it is what I did in my life.”

  • 19:24 - “I learned that I had to be in control because I grew up in a household with no control.”

  • 23:00 - “Everybody’s different. Some kids can develop very fast. Some kids are slow. You’ve got to take every kid for who he is.”

  • 25:17 - “There’s a magical period in your life where you can be world class.”

  • 27:53 - “Sometimes, the ones that you love are the hardest to reach.”

  • 33:46 - “When it works and when an athlete is on, it is truly art.”

  • 41:05 - “You gotta work, work, work, and then work some more.”

  • 45:55 - “I was not a quitter. I was not a guy that couldn’t make it, that wasn’t good enough. I found a way. I like the feeling in the gym because I had to depend on myself there my whole life. When I got in the ring, it was just me and the other guy.”

  • 47:44 - “I never heard love in my house growing up. I tell my kids I love them every day. I try to give them every opportunity to be whoever and whatever they want to be.”

  • 51:39 - “Everybody walks away better when we work at life.”










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