*Photo Credit: Philly Boxing History
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
New York, NY (May 11th, 2019)–Pennsylvania heavyweight contender Smokin’ Bert Cooper, a Joe Frazier student protégé who took Evander Holyfield and Michael Moorer on unexpected world championship trips to hell, has died of pancreatic cancer at age 53.
Cooper recorded a third-round knockdown of Holyfield in their 1991 WBA and IBF World heavyweight title matchup, won by stoppage by Holyfield in the seventh round. Cooper had been a late replacement for Mike Tyson and Francesco Damiani, who was supposed to replace Tyson. Cooper also dropped Michael Moorer in the first and third rounds of their 1992 title bout, won by WBO World Heavyweight champion Moorer by fifth-round stoppage. Cooper also lost to such champions and big names as George Foreman, Mike Weaver, Ray Mercer, Riddick Bowe, Larry Donald, Corrie Sanders, Chris Byrd, Joe Mesi, Alexander Zolkin and Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams. Cooper beat such names as Henry Tillman, Willie de Wit, Everett Martin, Joe Hipp and Orlin Norris.
Cooper figured into 13 state, regional and world title bouts at cruiserweight and heavyweight, and held the NABF cruiserweight and heavyweight regional titles of the World Boxing Council, as well as the lesser-known World Boxing Federation World Heavyweight title via a first-round knockout win over 18-0 Richie Melito.
Fighting between 1984 and 2012, Cooper compiled a record of 38 wins and 25 losses, with 31 knockouts. He retired after a fourth-round stoppage loss to Darrol Wilson in November 2002 at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. Cooper returned in 2010 with a sixth-round knockout of Corey Winfield, and then won a six round split decision over Gabe Brown in 2011. However consecutive loses to Luis Ortiz, Chauncey Welliver and Carl Davis convinced Cooper to hang his gloves up for good in November 2012.
Short but dangerous, powerful, and brute force strong, Cooper took a kill or be killed approach to the ring to knock his opponent’s block off and die trying in the process. It can be said in reflection that Cooper never entered the ring seeking to fight a fight a technical fight, or looking win a decision. His mentality was strictly knock you out, and leave nothing to chance or the judges.
According to Carl Davis, his heavyweight opponent in his last professional bout in 2012, “Oh no. god bless, I’m so sorry to hear that (about Cooper’s passing). That man was very strong! He was looking to knock an elephant out (when he fought). Bert Cooper was throwing haymakers, and when he missed I was feeling wind. He might have been past his prime, but he was still strong, like George Foreman. If Cooper would have caught anybody, he would have rocked them or knocked them out bad. Cooper was looking to win for a knockout. He caught me with a couple of body shots, but I kind of like steered them off.”
Davis continued “Cooper came to box. He came to fight. One thing I can say regardless, he was not the 21-year-old Cooper (when you fought me in his last bout) but-if you made a mistake-you was gonna get it because even though Cooper was old, Cooper still came with some heat. He was still like a juggernaut. He still came with heat. I don’t know what his stamina was (as he was older when I fought him) because I took him out. I don’t think any fighter wants to go the distance with anybody. You want to get into the ring, and get out as fast as you can. Cooper came in there to knock you out, he didn’t come in to play. Cooper wasn’t in there to go the distance with you. Cooper was in there to knock you out.”
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