Smokin Bert Cooper has sadly passed away. Derek Bonnett presents a heartfelt tribute to a heavyweight who was seldom boring
The smoke has finally settled. Boxing lost a game and exciting former heavyweight challenger in Smokin’ Bert Cooper. The Philadelphia hooker, once trained by the great Joe Frazier, who saw Cooper fit enough to bear his moniker, lost his final battle to pancreatic cancer. Cooper was 53 years old.
Cooper fought well passed his best days until 2012 officially. However, he was not active for roughly eight years following a defeat to fellow chin-checker Darroll Wilson. The height of Cooper’s fame came in the early nineties at heavyweight. In that time, Cooper lost wars against Ray Mercer, Evander Holyfield, and Michael Moorer with the latter two being world championship bouts. Cooper pushed Mercer in a life and death struggle which saw Mercer’s face grotesquely re-arranged. Cooper had Holyfield on the canvas as a late substitute for Francesco Damiani who had stepped in for Mike Tyson. Cooper’s tough stand famously had Jim Lampley calling the action “High drama in Atlanta”. In the end, Cooper felt he finally made the cut and proudly boasted there would be “No more ESPN fights.” The Moorer clash scorched the audience on TVKO Pay-Per-View with knockdown after knockdown. Cooper almost ended matters in the opening minute, but the southpaw raged back to drop the wild hooker also in the first. They traded one more knockdown apiece, but Moorer would stand victorious in the fifth.
Before losses to other heavyweight champions such as George Foreman and Riddick Bowe, Cooper was touted as a solid cruiserweight prospect, but drug abuse held him back far more than a shortage of heart or talent. Poor management sent Bert in too deep and too often unprepared. Nevertheless, Cooper won over some quality opponents in Henry Tillman, Tyrone Booze, Orlin Norris, and Joe Hipp.
Cooper finished his boxing career with a ledger of 38-25-0 (31). His renaissance ended following the Moorer defeat and he became most a stepping stone to fresher talents such as Corrie Sanders, Larry Donald, Chris Byrd, and Derrick Jefferson among others.
Back in June of 2017, Cooper sat proudly among fellow boxing figures at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota. He was not enshrined that weekend and he never will be, but Cooper at his best gave the fans a lot to remember. He was popular with the fans that weekend and his smile served as ample proof that he was feeling pretty good.
The SecondsOut team extends their condolences to the Cooper family.