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The career of Smokin' Bert Cooper

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The career of Smokin’ Bert Cooper: Oh, So Close For The Smoke

by Dean Berks

A puncher’s chance; Writers and reporters regularly use this description when a heavy handed fighter is the prohibited underdog and is generally granted the opinion that they have only one way to win the fight: If they can land the proveriable knockout blow. But that is the blessing and curse of the puncher. On one hand, he can turn his fortunes around with one well placed shot, on the other, if he fails to land this, the superior skills of the opposing boxer will render him to defeat. The line is a fine one, and back in 1991 and 1992, a fringe contender from Philadelphia nearly crossed that line, not once but twice, being within one punch of holding boxing’s most esteemed title, the Heavyweight championship of the world. In each defeat he displayed enormous heart and courage, but that was the problem with the man known as ‘Smokin’ Bert Cooper. When motivated he could be one of the most dangerous fighters out there. However, when that motivation was missing, he could appear as ambitious as a clubfighter, going through the motions as he suffered an inevitable defeat, picking up a payday that funded his battles with both drugs and alcohol. Cooper was an enigma, frustrating so many around him. It was a career that really could have been so different.

Born 10 January 1966 in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, Cooper gravitated towards boxing aged sixteen when he accepted that he wasn’t cut out for the academic side of high school. He started at the Upper Darby Gym before making his way to the legendary Joe Frazier’s Gym in 1982. Arriving with no socks or boots, Frazier saw something he liked in the young Cooper and took him under his wing. Cooper learned his trade in the toughest of environments, swapping leather with Frazier’s son Marvis and future WBC Heavyweight titleist Pinklon Thomas, whilst embarking on a brief ten fight amateur career. He lost the last one as he ran out of gas, a result of not being in condition due to a complete lack of roadwork. This lack of discipline would become a constant theme throughout his career, where he over-relied on his power to see him out of trouble.

He turned over to the professional ranks on 11 September 1984, knocking out Dennis Caldwell in the first round. A further run of 9 wins, 8 by knockout, all in the cruiserweight division followed, before his lackadaisical approach to training caught up with him when he was stopped in eight rounds by heavyweight Reggie Gross. However, two fights later he reminded many of his potential when he upset Olympic champion Henry Tillman, knocking him down twice in round two before pounding out a twelve round points win, taking both his NABF title and unbeaten record. He was pushed to the limit in his first defence, taking a split decision over future WBO title holder Tyrone Booze, before two wins saw him compete at heavy again, this time against Canadian Willie De Wit. De Wit was being heavily hyped, having won silver at the ’84 Olympics, and had put together an unbeaten run of 15-0-1, 11 KO’s. Cooper was seen as an attractive name to add to his growing reputation, but it was Cooper who stole the headlines, blitzing De Wit with four knockdowns in two one-sided rounds.

Read more: https://www.ringnews24.com/2023/04/01/the-career-of-smokin-bert-cooper-oh-so-close-for-the-smoke/

Smokin Bert Cooper.jpg

Edited by WelshDevilRob
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