Requiem for a heavyweight: Bert Cooper still fighting

Bert Cooper (center) spares a few minutes from his preparation time for his September 8, 2012 fight against Carl “Iron Fist” Davis, for a photo with coaches and fellow gym members.  Photo: Jim Wyatt

I recently went to visit my family in the Philadelphia area, my hometown. While there, I decided to visit the local boxing gyms to compare them to what we have out here on the West Coast. While at the Upper Darby Boxing Gym, I was amazed to run into a 46 year-old veteran of many wars, Bert Cooper, who was originally trained by Smokin’ Joe Frazier.

What a surprise when I learned Mr. Cooper, a veteran of 62 fights and a career spanning 28 years, was in training for an upcoming fight. The same Bert Cooper who fought Mike Weaver back on February 27, 1993 for the heavyweight title at the Capital City Gymnasium in Beijing, China. Ken Norton used to call Weaver – “Hercules” when he was his sparring partner.

Since veteran boxers have the prerogative of being less than factual with their present circumstances/financial situation, Cooper told me his current record was 2 wins – 2 losses. He was of course zeroing in on his last four fights.

In 2011, he beat the 26 year-old, 300 pound Corey Winfield (3-6, now 4-10) and then won a split decision over a 6’3”, 39 year-old, 362 pound giant by the name of Gabe Brown (whose record at the time was 18-13-4, and now 18-17-4). Then came the two losses to the more legitimate foes, a Cuban southpaw by the name of Luis “El Mercedez” Ortiz (7-0) and Chauncy “The Hillyard Hammer” Welliver (52-5-5) from New Zealand.

Despite the rough going in his last two fights, Cooper remained positive for his upcoming fight versus the 38 year-old, 227 pound Carl “Iron Fist” Davis (15-4), a former cruiserweight champion. Davis won the vacant IBO/USBO cruiserweight title by decisioning former world champion ‘King’ Arthur Williams in Chicago in December 2010.

Cooper was in the gym everyday and working hard for this opportunity. In a bout originally scheduled for eight rounds, they cut it back to six due to the long 12 bout card at the Civic Center in Hammond, Indiana. The September 8th bout went off as scheduled.

In that match, the forty-six year veteran didn’t have a prayer. The Chicago heavyweight stopped the former top ranked heavyweight in the second round. Davis, at 38 years of age, stood 6’4″ tall and weighed 227 pounds to Cooper’s 5’10” and 243 pounds at age 46. That disparity proved to be the difference.

Cooper, a true warrior to the end, came forward with both hands swinging for an early knockout in Round #1. The taller, skittish Davis was no where to be found. When he did appear, he used his reach advantage to tag Cooper repeatedly with his left jab.

Philly’s Cooper was tagged near the end of round one while throwing a punch while backing up. A counter left had him nearly out on his feet. He covered up on the ropes which helped him survive till the bell sounded.

Cooper came out in the second round with the same gusto, swinging away with both hands but finding no target. Once again, Davis threw his lightning quick left-right combinations to Cooper’s head, and left hands to the body. The shorter, heavier Cooper was unable to escape the onslaught and eventually got knocked down to the canvas for a count of nine. Even though Cooper beat the count, he was out on his feet which prompted referee Kurt Spivey to call a halt to the action at 2:32 of round two.

Will Bert Cooper, who beat Henry Tillman, Tony Fulilangi, Orlin Norris, but lost to Ray Mercer, Riddick Bowe, Michael Morrer, Mike Weaver, Larry Donald, Alexander Zolkin, Corrie Sanders, Fres Oquendo, Chris Byrd, Carl “the Truth” Williams, George Foreman and Evander Holyfield finally hang up his gloves?

As of September 14, 2012, Cooper says he’s thinking about retiring and letting the younger fellows have a go at it. Let’s hope so.

Hopefully his residence in Sharon Hill, PA is paid for and he can retire in dignity. The money comes and goes quickly when you’re on center stage. The paycheck for just one of his celebrated fights was $750,000.

Photos from the Upper Darby Boxing Gym which also caters to the Mixed Martial Arts.

Not everyone is given a locker – you have to earn one.

Wall after wall is filled with memories. Photos: Jim Wyatt

The upstairs gym has all the equipment you’ll ever need.

Bert Cooper is seen going through one of his two a day workouts.

As they say, Bert Cooper hits you with bad intentions.

You see the clippings from the local newspapers on every wall.

Not the oldest boxing gym in Philadelphia, but close.



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