Bert Cooper, a formidable ring brawler who was once the primary skilled boxer to knock down Evander Holyfield — even supposing he went directly to lose their heavyweight championship bout — died on Friday at his house in Philadelphia. He was once 53.
The purpose was once pancreatic most cancers, mentioned Vinny LaManna, certainly one of Cooper’s former managers.
Cooper was once no longer intended to stand Holyfield, the reigning champ. Holyfield’s supposed opponent, Mike Tyson, dropped out when he injured his rib cage. Francesco Damiani, Tyson’s alternative, then withdrew after hurting an ankle. Cooper, who had not too long ago received 4 consecutive fights, signed up with a few week’s realize.
What then came about, on Nov. 23, 1991, on the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, had the makings of one of the vital greatest upsets in boxing historical past. Within the 3rd spherical, Cooper shocked Holyfield with a vicious overhand proper. Holyfield went limp, and after any other proper and a shove, he fell into the ropes. The referee, Turbines Lane, declared a knockdown since the ropes have been all that had saved the dazed Holyfield on his ft.
However Holyfield recovered, whilst nonetheless soaking up punishment from a tiring Cooper. Within the 7th spherical, after pummeling Cooper with a barrage of punches, Holyfield retained his identify by way of a technical knockout.
“He didn’t surrender,” Holyfield mentioned of Cooper later on. “He was once competitive sufficient to place me in a struggle I didn’t need to be in.”
Cooper was once a journeyman fighter with a potent proper hand. He had 38 profession victories — 31 of them by way of knockout — however 25 losses. He was once recognized extra for his losses (to George Foreman, Ray Mercer, Riddick Bowe and Michael Moorer, whom he knocked down two times, in addition to to Holyfield) than for his victories (over Henry Tillman in 1986, to win the North American Boxing Federation’s cruiserweight identify, and Orlin Norris in 1990, to win the federation’s heavyweight championship).
Bertram Cooper was once born on Jan. 10, 1966, and grew up in Sharon Hill, Pa., close to Philadelphia. Deciding that he sought after to field by way of age 12, he took a bus to the North Philadelphia health club run by way of Joe Frazier, the previous heavyweight champion.
Frazier, who noticed conceivable greatness in Cooper, changed into his supervisor and gave him a nickname, Rip-off Booger. Cooper, in flip, nicknamed himself Smokin’ Bert — in homage to Frazier, who was once referred to as Smokin’ Joe.
They fell out over remarks that Cooper made in 1987 when he was once knocked out in his first heavyweight struggle after transferring up from the cruiserweight magnificence. He mentioned that Frazier had insisted that he make that transfer.
“I placed on a large number of phony weight simply consuming sloppy stuff, junk meals,” Cooper mentioned in 1991. “Joe simply needs any person with an international identify belt similar to he did.”
However Cooper had extra problems than feeling unsatisfied as a heavyweight, the category wherein he would in the long run struggle complete time: He had a drug drawback. Cocaine was once present in his device in a drug check in 1989, hours ahead of his loss in Phoenix to Foreman, a struggle wherein he would no longer go away the stool to begin the 3rd spherical. When the check effects have been realized after the bout, the Arizona athletic fee fined him $1,500 from his handbag and required him to go through drug exams for 6 months.
“I spent maximum of my cash on me and my pipe,” Cooper mentioned in an interview with The Regina Chief-Put up of Saskatchewan ahead of a struggle in 1991 towards Conroy Nelson there. “I even bought my garments to shop for medication. I had a few truly great outfits, and I bought them for drug cash.”
After he was once arrested and charged with cocaine ownership in 1992, his mom, Henrietta Cooper, mentioned, “Possibly when he dries out, he’s going to come again house to those that love him.”
There was once no fast knowledge to be had about his survivors.
Cooper persevered to struggle till 2002 and returned in 2010; he fought 5 bouts over the following two years, dropping the final 3. He was once named to the New Jersey Boxing Corridor of Status in 2014 and to the Pennsylvania Boxing Corridor of Status 3 years later.
Cooper said that he may have been a greater boxer if medication and different issues had no longer derailed him. When requested by way of the web site Boxing Insider in 2015 how he wish to be remembered, he replied: “Bert Cooper wasn’t at his absolute best. The vast majority of my profession, I wasn’t at my absolute best.”