Well known retired heavyweight Gerry Cooney believes Hall of Fame promoter Don King is directly to blame for the decline of the heavyweight division.
The division was struggling for a long time, but now the division is red hot with several big players at the weight - like WBA, IBO, IBF champion Anthony Joshua, WBC champion Deontay Wilder, WBO champion Joseph Parker, dangerous Cuban Luis Ortiz, the returning Tyson Fury, Tony Bellew, David Haye and several other rising contenders.
Joshua and Parker are heading to a unification showdown on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales. And Wilder is colliding with Ortiz on March 3 in Brooklyn, New York.
Cooney believes that King's business practices was a big influence in the career decisions of top heavyweight athletes - who declined to pursue pro boxing careers and instead entered football, basketball and other sports.
Now with King out of the picture, Cooney feels the division is really picking up.
“Yeah, I’m hopeful,” Cooney told Boxing News. “Real heavyweights are coming back again. I think that Don King raped and robbed the game so bad that a lot of those guys that would have gone to boxing went to football, baseball and basketball. And now they’re trickling back.”
Cooney is impressed with Wilder, but feels the champion has yet to be tested. That will change when he steps in the ring with Wilder. Like most in the boxing industry, Cooney wants to see him trade punches with Joshua.
“Deontay Wilder, who’s a very exciting kid, he wants to fight everybody,” Cooney said. “But he hasn’t really been tested yet. I love that kid, I’m a big fan of his, but we have to see. Him and [Anthony] Joshua would be giant.”
And Cooney was also impressed by the boxing ability of Fury and the strategy he used to defeat Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 to capture the IBF, IBO, WBA, WBO titles in a major upset.
“He kept him off balance,” Cooney said. “Klitschko was scared, he couldn’t get set.”