LAS VEGAS — Gerry Cooney is glad to hear Tyson Fury wants no part of any racial talk about his heavyweight championship fight with Deontay Wilder on Saturday night after having gone through what he did in 1982 before his title fight with Larry Holmes.
Cooney was cast as “The Great White Hope” by promoters and media when he met Holmes at Caesars Palace.
“He got his mailbox blown up and the Ku Klux Klan was sending me letters,” Cooney told The Post on Thursday. “It was never really about that. I was angry at Holmes because I thought he was making it a racial fight. But then we got to the center of the ring and [referee] Mills Lane gave us instructions and Larry said, ‘Let’s have a good fight.’ Everything else went out the window.”
Holmes won the fight by TKO in the 13th round and the two have become close friends. Cooney said he never understood why promoters made the fight a battle of the races.
“I was in Vegas with all my buddies I grew up with and we were living the dream,” said Cooney, a Long Island native. “I was fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world and eating lobster tails and turtle soup.”
As for being cast as “The Great White Hope,” Cooney, who came from a blue-collar family on Long Island, ignored it.
“I grew up with white, black, Chinese, Puerto Rican. That talk didn’t affect me,” he said. “People are people.”
Cooney, 63, was on his way to Las Vegas to attend Wilder-Fury 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. He said he enjoys the personalities and the charisma the two fighters display.
“I love Wilder and I love Fury,” he said. “Listen, they’re both half crazy. At least Fury is, for sure.”
He’s picking Wilder to win by knockout.
“It’s a matter of who learned the most from the first fight,” Cooney said of the split draw at Staples Center in December 2018. “Who picked up the parts from the other guy that made him vulnerable? I think Wilder with the big punch has got to land it sometime and he’s probably going to take him out.”
Wilder needs to attack the body more, Cooney said, but expects Fury to win most of the rounds.
“If they both stand outside it’s like sparring,” Cooney said. “If Wilder gets inside and lands a couple of body shots he’s going to make it easy for himself. Will he do that? I don’t know. Wilder was behind in both fights with [Luis] Ortiz before he knocked him out and lost almost every round when he fought Fury. We want to see guys busy and exchanging and trading. But Wilder’s got that killer right-hand and that’s about all. He waits and waits, but he’s been able to land it every time.”