They met thirty-five years ago under the stars in that neon desert of illusion, Las Vegas, drawn together by hate, cynicism, greed. Mere sports seemed like an afterthought that night. On June 11, 1982, hardscrabble Larry Holmes, whose magnificent bitterness had fueled his rise to the heavyweight championship, met affable Gerry Cooney, young, powerful, Irish, unproven, and feverishly revered. With racism looming over the promotion from the day it first kicked off, Holmes-Cooney became a national Rorschach test with ugly interpretations. More than 30,000 spectators gathered to see Holmes and Cooney wage war, with millions more tuning in on closed-circuit, radio, and pay-per-view. It was the biggest fight of its time and, perhaps, a brief glimpse into the dark heart of America. For Cooney, who suggested something out of Clifford Odets—“Like a bullet! All future and no past”— during the Studio 54 heyday, there would be precious few tomorrows in boxing after what happened at Caesars Palace. For Holmes, whose nasty edge never dulled as the years went gray, there were more riches and glories to come…along with enough bleak memories to last a wakeful life. The following is a media collage of the events surrounding one of the most cheerless fights in history.
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