When Gerry Cooney was 16 and growing up in Huntington, he didn't have much going for him. He said he came from a turbulent home. He lacked self esteem.
But the one thing he could do was fight. In fact, he did it out of necessity. He was a big kid, and therefore was challenged all the time — in home and at school.
So Cooney entered the Golden Gloves. The owner of the Herman's Sporting Goods store on Route 110 in Huntington Station told Cooney that if he won the boxing tournament, he would give him a free heavybag. Cooney won and was waiting the next morning for the store to open. The owner made good on his promise.
"It was a great moment in my life," said Cooney. "I always felt I was not good enough, that I wasn't going to make it. But for the first time in my life, at the age of 16, I could stand up and stick my chest out. I earned that heavy bag. Winning the Gloves made me believe I was somebody."
Cooney, the shy kid from Huntington, went on to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world and earned millions of dollars.
These days, boxing is back in his old neighborhood. Promoter Joe DeGuardia has run a series of shows at the Paramount on Route 110 and Friday, Jan. 25 is the biggest one to date. Former 2008 Olympian Demetrius Andrade (18-0, 13 KOs), of Providence, R.I., faces former world title challenger Freddy Hernandez (30-3, 20 KOs), of Lynwood, Calif., in the 10-round junior middleweight main event on ShoBox: The New Generation doubleheader live on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
The televised co-feature is a 10-round matchup of once-beaten junior welterweights: Raymond "Tito" Serrano (18-1, 8 KOs), of Philadelphia, against Emmanuel "Tranzforma" Taylor (15-1, 10 KOs), of Edgewood, Md. There are also some very talented Long Island fighters on the card — welterweight Cletus Seldin, middleweight Raul Nuncio and lightweight Alan Gotay. There will also be a local flavor to the ShoBox broadcast with veteran New York fight scribe Steve Farhood calling the action.
"Joe DeGuardia, I love that guy, he's not a superstar promoter yet, but he will be," said Cooney. "He was a fighter himself, he's staying the course with these guys. He's developing some good fighters out there. I really applaud him whenever I get a chance to."
Cooney was particularly happy about the development of the local fighters in DeGuardia's stable.
"When we first started in Huntington Recreation with John Capobianco, we put four kids in the Golden Gloves finals," said Cooney. "We didn't even have a ring. We trained at Stimson Junior High School. They give us the gym three nights a week. We used to box in the gym, no ring, just on the gym floor. But you never know what can happen. Long Island has a great boxing tradition. I'm glad it's still growing."