It was a fight built on a lot of nonsense and stupidity. As Larry Holmes' twelfth WBC heavyweight world title defense against Gerry Cooney was overshadowed by a racially charged ad campaign that played upon the idea of 'The Great White Hype'. Holmes even called Cooney 'The Great White Dope' during a press conference.
Holmes had defeated every one of his era from Ken Norton, Trevor Berbick, Earnie Shavers, Leon Spins, and a very past-his-prime, Muhammad Ali. Despite this, Holmes was not regarded as the beloved heavyweights before him.
Cooney was a New York Golden Gloves champion, who had picked up a big win over Ron Lyle and Ken Norton.
The interest in the fight was so massive that both fighters were set to land ten million dollars, each. Taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, at Caesars Palace, airing on HBO, and getting re-broadcast on ABC a week after. Yet, an injury to Cooney would push the fight back.
The racial promotion of the fight saw boxing reach new lows as the Ku Klux Klan did rallies to support Cooney - extra security was added, despite neither fighter truly buying into the hatred used to promote the event.
The venue sold 29,284, which saw Holmes outbox Cooney. After losing the fight, Cooney didn't return to the ring for some time.
This fight summed up Holmes' career. Holmes was the best of his era and never got his respect. A large portion of the fight was built on 'Could Cooney beat Holmes?' When Cooney couldn't - it was a letdown to a lot of viewers as opposed to a big achievement for Holmes. The fight runs along the same lines as Holmes vs. Ali, as the outcome is secondary to what occurred in the fight, and the perception that became reality. For Cooney, his career was clouded by the promotion as some saw him as a fighter who was just all promotion.
In the end, it was a fight that got a lot of attention but seemingly didn't benefit the fighters in terms of legacy, only financially.