R.I.P “Smokin’” Bert Cooper – 1966-2019

In very sad and somewhat shocking news, it has been reported how former heavyweight contender Bert Cooper has passed away from pancreatic cancer. Bert was just 53 years old. The rough, tough and often extremely exciting warrior who was once trained by the legendary Joe Frazier (who gave Bert his “Smokin’” nickname) fought so many top names during his up and down career.

Initially a cruiserweight, Cooper soon moved up to heavyweight, and on his best night he could rumble with the best of the best. The knock on Cooper was his lack of discipline. Throughout his long pro career – September 1984 to September of 2012, with numerous layoffs included – no-one knew whether or not Bert would enter the ring in top fighting shape. A lover of partying, this leading to his indulgence in drugs and alcohol – Bert once famously said before his losing fight with a come-backing George Foreman how he had “probably slept two or three hours in the last two or three days.”

But when he was ready to fight hard, Cooper was a force to be reckoned with. Fans still talk about the way Cooper, who was given just six days’ notice (and fighters today, some of them anyway, were moaning that six weeks was not enough time to get ready to fight Anthony Joshua for the world title), became the first man to drop Evander Holyfield. Cooper was eventually stopped but what a war he gave Holyfield.

The knockdown-filled slugfest Cooper engaged in with Michael Moorer was an even better fight, this time with the WBO heavyweight belt on the line. Twice, then, Cooper came oh, so close to becoming heavyweight champ. After the Moorer loss of 1992, it was pretty much downhill for Bert; although he did manage the odd victory. Self-proclaimed tough man Joe Savage, who had “never lost a bare-knuckle fight in his life,” made the mistake of taking on Cooper in the ring in April of 1994. Less than a round later, Savage had been destroyed quite ruthlessly.

Cooper carried on fighting until 2012, losing his last three and a good many before those defeats. Retiring in 2012, with a desire to fight still very much there, even if the tools were now long gone, Bert walked away with a 38-25(31) record. Some of the big names Cooper fought include: Henry Tillman (a win), Willie de Witt (a devastating win), Carl Williams (a loss), Foreman (a loss), Orlin Norris (a win), Ray Mercer (a tough decision loss in another war), Riddick Bowe (a quick KO loss), Holyfield (a controversial loss), Moorer (in a losing classic), Chris Byrd (a loss) Joe Mesi (a loss) and Luis Ortiz (a loss).

As the saying goes, Cooper ‘fought ’em all.’ May he rest in peace.

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