Moorer v Cooper - The Foreman v Lyle Of The 90’s!

22.06.06 - By James Slater: In my very first article for Eastside Boxing, I recounted the incredible slugfest that was the George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle fight from 1976. Such a great, two way fight was simply begging to have an article written in its tribute. The ferocious action that unfolded in five of the most sensational rounds in heavyweight history were truly mesmerising. So much so that it was thought its like would probably never be seen again. However, there was a heavyweight rumble - in 1992 - that gave the epic bout held two decades earlier a run for its money, action wise..

Smokin’ Bert cooper, a one time protégé of the legendary Joe Frazier, had just come within a whisker of KO’ing heavyweight king Evander Holyfield. Bert had had “The Real Deal” in serious trouble in the third round of their November 1991 fight - putting the champ on the canvas - and now, by way of a reward for his gallant effort, he was meeting former light heavyweight destroyer and one time holder of the WBO 175 pound championship, Michael Moorer. This big and high profile fight would contest the heavyweight version of WBO honours. If Bert couldn’t quite win the real thing, he was damned determined he would flatten his one-time 175 pound opponent and get his hands on the lesser crown in the process. What followed, at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on May the 15th 1992, was the most action packed heavyweight slugfest of the 90’s!

Referee Joe O’Neil gave the final instructions and battle commenced. And did it ever! The two fighters met in the centre of the ring and started punching - hard. As they were trading shots, Moorer wound up being forced to the ropes. Bert opened up with both hands as a result and the Kronk fighter was in bad shape. He slid to the canvas - more due to the fact that he couldn’t get away from Cooper’s onslaught any other way - and a count was given. Michael was up quickly and his eyes were clear. This didn’t stop Cooper from going in for the finish, however. He did his best Mike Tyson impersonation and roared after Moorer. Some lethal looking uppercuts were launched at his unbeaten opponent, but Moorer was soon responding in kind. He came firing back and jolted Bert with a good shot - only to be under pressure on the ropes once again. But then the Kronk southpaw cracked Cooper with a blisteringly fast combination and sent him to the mat! The action was truly coming thick and fast.

Cooper was visibly more hurt than Moorer had been when suffering his knockdown and there was now the possibility of the fight ending in a single round. Bert’s gumshield had come hurtling out of his mouth as he’d hit the canvas and as he beat the count and resumed fighting the ref mistakenly failed to put it back in. Moorer went in for the kill and really did give Cooper a shellacking, only for a time-out to be called in order to replace the missing shield. Some in the crowd began to boo, thinking that Bert was being given a much needed breather, but to be fair he had thrown a few of his own punches back before the brief respite. The first round was over at any rate. And what a round it had been.

In round two Cooper resumed his attack, throwing hurtful looking hooks aplenty. Both guys then took turns trading uppercuts -it really was shaping up as a great inside fight. Bert then dug a hard shot into Moorer’s body, followed by another uppercut to the jaw, and his handiwork was rewarded with cheers from the crowd. Not to be outdone, Michael let loose with yet more shots of his own. Both men were swapping vicious punches and it was clear they were giving one another’s heart and desire a stiff test. The session ended with Moorer’s back to the ropes once again. Another action-packed and tough round was in the books.

The third, and in an almost carbon copy of the knockdown in the first round, Moorer was downed while standing with his back to the ropes. In almost the exact same spot he had been in when decked in the opener, Michael slid to the canvas for a second time. If he hadn’t gone to the floor pretty much on his own accord the first time, he had done so now - simply to put a halt on Cooper’s ferocious momentum. He was up quickly and also as before, his eyes were clear. As the hostilities continued it was clear that Moorer was standing right in front of Cooper by choice and although these tactics seemed strange no-one at ringside was complaining - this was one hell of a fight! Also surprisingly, it was Bert who showed signs of tiredness first.

His mouth began to hang open in this round. He also had a cut over his right eye. Amazingly, Michael’s chosen style of fighting might actually prove successful. Bert wasn’t done yet though and once again he let punches go as his rival was along the ropes. There was then another time-out to replace the Cooper Gumshield - which resulted in more boos from the Moorer fans.

Then, with a minute to go, both warriors went back to work in their phone booth war. Yet another great round of heavyweight action.

Round four, and Michael Moorer’s version of the Rope-a-dope continued. With Cooper visibly slowing down due to fatigue, Michael was content to stay on the ropes and fire out fast counters in spurts. This pattern continued unabated for a while, before he moved to the middle of the ring and switched to Cooper’s body with a couple of wicked punches. This was a good round for Michael, although it was also the quietest round of the bout yet. Who was going to prevail? Who was going to go? As the round ended, there was no definitive answer. There soon would be.

During the break before the fifth, Cooper looked very weary. How much did the man once known as a notorious quitter have left? In a round that was fought almost exclusively in the same right hand corner of the ring, Moorer planted his feet and stood against the ropes as Cooper pressed on with his attack. “Smoke” knew only one way to fight - aggressively! But then, in spectacular fashion, Moorer unleashed a sharp right hand shot to the head, followed by four consecutive lefts, and the two men switched positions. For the first time in the fight, Bert Cooper had his back to the ropes - and he was not there by choice. Then came the finish. Moorer landed flush with a huge right uppercut that blasted Cooper’s head up and he collapsed to the floor. Somehow, with blood trickling down the side of his face, he was up at nine - only for Joe O’Neil to wave the fight off. He had seen enough. No-one complained. The greatest two way fight in the heavyweight division for years had ended in favour of the man from the Kronk gym.

As I said at the very start of this article, this fight rivalled the Classic from 1976 between Foreman and Lyle. There were indeed some similarities. Both men were knocked down twice each, both bouts lasted five rounds a piece and the winner had to fight back through serious trouble to win. But most of all - both fights were truly great. As to which fight is the better of the two, I will leave that up to you!

Article posted on 22.06.2006

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