FANWOOD, NJ -- Fanwood's own Gerry Cooney, Nick's Pizza, and Rocko's Ice Cream this week co-hosted a holiday party for 33 young people at Youth Consultation Service (YCS), where the boxing legend has taught pugilistic and life skills for more than a decade.
"I grew up in a dysfunctional family." said Cooney, who famously battled then-undefeated Larry Holmes for the heavyweight championship of the world. "I love these kids. They've got some tough stories."
"I teach them about boxing and I teach them about life. If one kid listens to you, it's a success," Cooney explained. "Everybody wants to be an NBA player, but not everyone makes is.
In a March interview published in TAPintoSPF, Cooney explained how boxing saved him as a youth: “I was mixed up a lot. Most of my friends were going away to college. I wasn’t and had to figure out about making a life. I couldn’t depend on anyone. I was stuck by myself, the Fanwood resident said.
"Then my brother Tommy ran away from home. He went to the gym and started boxing. So I use to go there to see him. I put the gloves on and started fighting and that’s how I became a fighter. I was pretty good…tall, skinny. I could punch."
He fought some of the greatest fighters in the late 1970s: Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, and former champion Ken Norton, whom Cooney knocked out in 54 seconds.
"Gerry has been working with YCS for a long time," said Elizabeth Harley, YCS supervisor. "He's here early mornings and on Saturdays. The boys really appreciate him."
"He spars with them and talks to them about life. He lets them know what they should be doing -- the right things."
YCS is a leading non-profit provider in New Jersey of comprehensive mental health and education services for children in need. The organization has helped thousands of young people build healthier, happier, more hopeful lives. YCS provides educational and developmental opportunities and help for over 7,000 children and their families.