As gentleman Gerry Cooney strolled down crowded Mulberry Street
in New York City's Little Italy during last month's Feast of San
Gennaro, he shook numerous hands, signed the memo books of two
NYPD officers and posed for photographs with revelers. Then
Cooney was given an unsolicited raffle prize--a $200 dinner from
Da Nico Ristorante--for FIST (Fighters' Initiative for Support
and Training), his foundation that provides job training and, in
some instances, financial help to retired boxers. "There comes a
time when a boxer has to hang up the gloves," Cooney said, "but
they don't know how to replace the roar of the crowd."

A promenade among his fans wasn't in Cooney's plans when he came
to Little Italy from his home in suburban Fanwood, N.J. He was in
the neighborhood to pick up a sculpture valued at $50,000--The
Discus Thrower by DeWeldon--from Chuck Huller, co-owner of the
Benedetti Gallery, who was donating the piece for an Oct. 5 FIST
fund-raising auction. "I should hang out here more often," Cooney
said, puffing on a cigar. "It's nice that people can still
remember you."

What people remember most about Cooney is his 1982 loss, a
13th-round TKO, to heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and his
teary postfight remark to fans, "I'm sorry I let you down."
Cooney, who earned $10 million for the Holmes fight, had a 28-3-0
record with 24 knockouts before retiring in '90. Having saved
some of his boxing millions--he had two managers who "watched each
other," he says--Cooney wanted to assist fallen pugilists, and
with the help of his wife, Jennifer, a small-business appraiser,
and friends Joe Sano and Norman Weiss, he founded FIST in '98. To
date the foundation has aided 32 boxers. "We help the fighter
help himself," says Weiss. Cooney himself admits to having had a
drinking problem during his boxing career but says he's been
clean since April 21, 1988, when he awoke and thought, What's
going on?

Gerry, 44, and Jennifer have a 2 1/2-year-old son, Jackson (Gerry
has an 11-year-old son, Christopher, from a previous
relationship). Cooney keeps busy helping raise money for 25
charities, Make-A-Wish and the American Heart Association among
them. "I've learned to laugh at life," he says, which is
important to a man who has taken many punches--in the ring and
otherwise. "I regret not developing my potential," he says, "but
I'm proud of my fight with Holmes." As another admirer clicked a
photograph, Cooney joked, "Wait, I wasn't ready," and the crowd
roared.

--Kelvin C. Bias

COLOR PHOTO: TONY TRIOLO (COVER) COLOR PHOTO: JIM LUZZI The Discus Thrower was auctioned at a benefit for FIST, Cooney's foundation.
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)