Smokin’ Bert Cooper: A Hometown Hero Goes Home

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Bertram “Smokin’ Bert” Cooper: 1966 – 2019

I attended a funeral today. Actually we call them “homegoings.” This homegoing was for the brother of a dear friend. His name was Bertram Cooper, nicknamed “Smokin’ Bert.” He was only 53. He was born and raised outside of Philly in Sharon Hill, and he is the pride and joy of the Darby Borough. His life and legacy and faith and fearlessness in the ring are another of those underdog stories that we all love to hear and tell.

Here’s a tad of his tale:

“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.”

“Smoking” Bert Cooper (38-25-0, KO’s 31), 2-time World Heavyweight Title challanger (1991 & 1992), former NABF Cruiserweight Champion (1986-1989) & NABF Heavyweight Champion (1990-1990), former WBF Heavyweight Title holder (1997), former USA Pennsylvania State heavyweight champion (2002).

Victories over the likes of: Orlin Norris, Joe Hipp, Henry Tillman, Willie deWit etc.

Lost to champs & top contenders like: George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Michael Moorer, Riddick Bowe, Ray Mercer, Mike Weaver, Corrie Sanders, Chris Byrd, Carl Williams, Luis Ortiz, Larry Donald, Fres Oquendo, Joe Mesi, Chauncy Welliver.

Cooper was at one point CLOSE to being a re-incarated Joe Frazier. He surely had his athletics and power, but not the hunger or discipline like Frazier had that made him to a great champ. And when Cooper started with drugs, that was a heart-breaking break-point for old champ Joe who threw Cooper out of his gym in disgust and disappointment for his former protégé.” https://www.boxing247.com/boxing-news/r-i-p-smokin-bert-cooper-1966-2019/117824

Did The Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor Fight Live Up to the Hype?

 

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Mayweather-vs-McGregor

The MayMac fight in Las Vegas was big, but there have been bigger, right? Ali vs. Frazier, the Rumble in the Jungle (Ali vs. Foreman), all of Sugar Ray Leonard’s  fights and all of the Roberto Duran fights and all of the Joe Louis fights lived up to the hype (mostly). But did this one? You tell me.

First of all, Connor McGregor lost because he doesn’t fight with boxing gloves. It’s a small thing but it’s a big deal. He’s an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter that fights without shoes and with light gloves (4-6 ounces) that allow fingers to grab.  None of that was happening with Mayweather.

Think about it. Mayweather was smart enough not to fight a UFC fight with McGregor. Right? Would the outcome have gone another way had it been a UFC fight?  You tell me.

McGregor is used to a different style and different rules. While he is the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion, and a former UFC Featherweight Champion with a mixed martial arts (MMA) background, he had a learning curve to overcome. So he came in with a decided disadvantage.  Did he overwhelm or overpower or override all of that? Not quite.

Second, Mayweather won and finished his career going 50-0, which is no small feat. But he’s a defensive, “pretty boy” fighter. His MO, modus operandi, is not to get hit, to outlast his opponents, and to capitalize off of their weaknesses.  Well, check all of the boxes, because once again, Mayweather managed to avoid getting hit (for the most part), he outlasted McGregor, and he capitalized on McGregor’s weakness of wearing out and burning out in the early rounds.

Finally, McGregor’s manager said that he was OK with the stoppage in the 10th Round. The TKO was called essentially because Conor was cornered, out of gas, and was running on fumes.  But did the fight live up to the hype? You tell me.

The real question is this: are you living up to the hype? Does your life and your lifestyle as a believer in the Ultimate God living up to the billing that the Bible says it should? The Bible says that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. The Bible says that God always gives us a triumphant win. The Bible says that we will overcome every foe by the blood of the Lamb and by the message that we preach.

Christians believe and preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Our belief is rooted in and grounded on the faith that our lives should be fuller and richer and deeper and stronger than those who don’t believe.  But many of us are losing the fight in a technical knockout because we’re running out of gas; we aren’t fighting this fight of faith like we should. 

So, is your fight with this wanton world and your flimsy flesh and the diabolical devil a victory for you or not?

You tell me.

Muhammad Ali: How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

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If you want to remember and honor and pay respect to Muhammad Ali, check out his web site at http://www.muhammadali.com Its well worth the visit.

What would you like people to think about you when you are gone?

“I’D LIKE FOR THEM TO SAY,
HE TOOK A FEW CUPS OF LOVE.
HE TOOK ONE TABLESPOON OF PATIENCE,
ONE TEASPOON OF GENEROSITY,
ONE PINT OF KINDNESS;
HE TOOK ONE QUART OF LAUGHTER,
ONE PINCH OF CONCERN
AND THEN HE MIXED WILLINGNESS
WITH HAPPINESS.
HE ADDED LOTS OF FAITH,
AND HE STIRRED IT UP WELL.
THEN HE SPREAD IT OVER A SPAN OF
A LIFETIME, AND HE SERVED IT TO
EACH AND EVERY DESERVING
PERSON HE MET.”

“WHAT KEEPS ME GOING IS GOALS”
-Ali on training
A VOICE FOR THOSE WITHOUT ONE
There has always been far more to Muhammad than what took place in the boxing ring. He was fearless in his stance on civil rights, fighting for people suffering injustices in the United States and the rest of the world.

ALI ON THE VIETNAM WAR
Muhammad Ali’s polarizing decision inspired Americans of all backgrounds. New York Times columnist, William Rhoden, wrote, “Ali’s actions changed my standard of what constituted an athlete’s greatness. Possessing a killer jump shot or the ability to stop on a dime was no longer enough. What were you doing for the liberation of your people? What were you doing to help your country live up to the covenant of its founding principles?”

“Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee”

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Muhammad Ali, a.k.a. “The Greatest,” taught us how to be great. He could only teach what he knew, and he knew greatness.  He knew how to be grand and how to be grandiose; he knew how to be extravagant and how to be exaggerent; and he especially knew how to be over-the-top and under the table, all at once at the same time. Ali was one of a kind and in a class all by himself. That’s why he was loved and loathed, reviled and revered, and shunned and wooed the world over.

In the 1960’s, Ali was known for being a captivating and a controversial and a popular and a polarizing figure both inside and outside the boxing ring. He was one of the most recognized sports figures of all time, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.

Ali was iconic and an icon, a legend and legendary, a trend setter and a trailblazer.  Ali did what no other athlete, and a black athlete at that, did before. He stood up for his rights as he stared down the draft. He made many friends and made many more enemies, all in the same breath.  He did his fighting in and out of the ring. And along the way, he taught us some things he didn’t intend or set out to. Ali taught us how to take a hit, and why not to.

Ali is said to have ushered in the “Golden Era” of boxing.  Along the way, he won the Heavyweight Championship of the World three times as he fought and defeated some of the best boxers ever to enter then ring. Ali defeated the likes of Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Leon Spinks.  He also fought to defeat racism and classicism, poverty and paucity, inequity and inequality, imbalance and injustice, just to name a few.

Ali was impressive “on and off the court” and in and out of the ring. He was lush and lavish, most times gaudy and garish, oft times loud and lurid and showy and brassy and crude and what we thought was rude. But Ali was truthful and candid and straight and frank, especially about himself and the times he lived in.

Ali could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” His style of fighting was new and novel and different and divisive. During his career, he was criticized and ridiculed and jeered and sneered and derided and disparaged from day one. Yet and still he managed to reach the top of his craft three times, and stayed at the top of the charts and was first in the hearts of millions of fans the world over.

So how did he do it?

Ali remained true. He was who he was and he didn’t try to please or appease just to “get a vote.” He made many decisions I’m sure he’d like to take back; but then again, he wouldn’t be Ali if he didn’t do what he did or say what he said. This is the lesson that Ali taught us.

So don’t be afraid to be different and to make a difference, even if it costs you a few friends or your championship belt. Dare to be distinct. Dare to be divergent. Dare to be diverse from the crowd. We are made to be our own snowflake. So, if God made you uniquely you, why are you trying to fit in?  If you don’t fit, it’s because God made you NOT to fit, but to be a stand up and to stand out and to make a difference where there needs to be change and modification and alteration and transformation.

Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for teaching us the trade secrets of success in sports and in life.

 

Here are some the other things Ali taught us, in quotes:

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.

I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Getting Ready for The Big Fight

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I grew up with Muhammad Ali and “Smokin” Joe Frazier and George Foreman (the fighter, not the grill). Then there was Larry Homes and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Oscar de la Hoya and Evander Holyfield and Tommy “Hit Man” Hears and of course, “Iron Mike” Tyson. But that was then, and this is now. And this very well may be the fight of this fifteen year old Century.

Mayweather v. Pacquiao may well be the fight to end all fights – until the next big fight. It’s been a long time since there’s been a fight of this magnitude. Will it live up to the hype? Will it live down through the ages? Will it be worth the $100 pay-per-view price? I won’t know because it won’t start till way past my bedtime. But this much is true: big fights don’t come around every day, and big fights are big in every way.

Mayweather v. Pacquiao may well be bigger than anything that you face in your life every day. And maybe not. Maybe you have big fights and big games and big races and big heats and big matches and big Game 7’s in your life all of the time. God bless you. Because it takes something to get “up” for the big one.

When it comes to the big fights in your life, it’s all about how you approach them. It’s all about your tactics and your techniques and your practices and your preparation. Because how you go in pretty much dictates how you will come out. If you don’t have an edge and an aura and tact and a tone and the dexterity and the delicacy to bob and weave and duck and dodge and juke and jab and as you fight in the ring of life, you’ve lost before you’ve even won.

In the big fight of life, you can’t have a glass jaw. You can’t just stand there like a statue and get knocked in the nose and hammered in the head and gorged in the gut. You’ve gotta’ fight back. You’ve gotta’ fight fierce. You’ve gotta’ scrap and scrape and battle and brawl and get through every round until it’s all over. You may be sucker punched and rabbit punched and left punch drunk before you are saved by the bell.

So who ya got? I don’t know the fighters well enough to call this one. But the pundits are predicting a whale of a fight. So go ahead. Pay your 100 bucks and tell me how it was. And make sure that you’re ready for your next big fight too.

Don’t Hate The Player, Hate The Game

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Any fight fans out there?  I’m not, but as the saying goes, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Playa Hater is live in Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on Saturday night, October 13, 2014 at the MGM Grand. The rapper Ice T wrote these lyrics: “I don’t know why a player wanna hate T.  I didn’t choose the game, the game chose me.”

Don’t hate the player, hate the game is another way of saying “don’t blame me; this is how the system works.” In other words, “society made me do it,” or “the system is flawed and I’ve figured out how to work it,”or “everyone else is cheating too.”

This, of course is a cop out.  To say, don’t dislike someone for their actions, consider instead the situation that causes it, is only half of the story. It’s a twist of Gandhi’s Quote: “Hate the sin and love the sinner.”  

In order to “hate the game,” individual culpability is thrown out the window, and we are somehow to believe it when athletes gone astray say “it’s not my fault that I’m the way that I am.”  Hogwash.

The most popular usage of “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game” (DHTPHTG) is when one employs extra-scrupulous tactics to vanquish an enemy in the fields of:

Business;

Dating;

Politics, and especially Sports.

Hate is the opposite of love, and the best use of hate is for sin and shame, and for the emblems of evil that pervade our society.  Our hate should not be for the institutions of football and baseball and basketball and professional sports in general. Rather, our hate should be, as the Bible implies and as Gandhi implores, for the sin and not for the sinner.

It seems that we have lost our way when we don’t play clean and hard and fair; when we don’t reward the right ones and we reward everyone; and when we excuse those who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.  We need to return to good old fashioned morals and manners, principles and practices, and these need to be employed on and off of the court and the field, and in tonight’s case, the boxing ring.

Knowing You’re Going To Win

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For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 

    Job 19:25, KJV

Two coaches from two similar Christian schools met at half-court before the game. One coach said to the other, “I know we’re going to win. God’s on our side.”   As comical as it sounds, we sometimes are overly zealous when it comes to our athletic beliefs. Nonetheless, spiritually speaking, there are some things that we do know, and we know them beyond the shadow of a doubt.

We know that God is true; we know that Jesus is the Son of God; we know that Heaven and hell are for real; we know that we are going to win, that we’re going to emerge victorious from every brawl and every battle and every skirmish and every scuffle because Jesus already won on Calvary.

That being said, how do we know that we are going to win?  How do we know there is a God? Can the existence of God be proven?  Zophar asked Job this question: “Canst thou by searching find out God?” (Job 11:7, KJV).  This, of course, is a rhetorical question.  Thus, the answer is yes, but this “proof” is not rational or reasonable, and can only be arrived at, as Kierkegaard would say, by a “leap of faith.”  The proof is not empirical or rational, but intuitive.

Thus, “knowing” that God exists, as Robert Pargetter states, is “properly basic.” Kierkegaard adamantly argues this point: “without risk there is no faith.” Further, he states that “if I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe.” Being a movie critic of sorts, I love Paragetter’s “parallel between the experience of God and the experience of “the Force” in the Star Wars film series; the way in which Luke Skywalker and others came to believe in the Force bears an interesting resemblance to the way in which, according to Reformed Epistemology, a person may come to believe in God”[1]

One of the best examples of knowing in sports is found in the 1999 feature film The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington.  In the film, Director Norman Jewison examines the incredible true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer who was poised to be to be a title contender before a wrongful conviction sent him to prison for nearly three decades.  And, per usual, Denzel Washington is commanding as the film’s lead.

The film depicts The Hurricane, a middleweight boxer who is falsely accused of triple homicide.  Tried and convicted of the crimes, while in prison, he wrote the book The Sixteenth Round. Lesra, a teenage boy from Brooklyn, finds his book at a bookstore and reads it. Convinced of his innocence, he embarks on an incredible journey to secure his release.

 Towards the end of the film, just prior to his release from prison, Carter asked Lesra “Do you believe I killed those people?” Lesra replies, “No.”  “How do you know?” Carter asks. Lesra replies, “I just know.” For the believer in the eternal and everlasting God, the response is the same. How do we know that God exists? We just know. The same applies to our belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The implication is that we are saved by faith alone, sola fide, through God’s grace alone, sola gratia.


[1] M. Peterson, W. Hasker, B. Reichenbach, D. Basinger, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 4th edition (New York: Oxford University Press), 2010, p. 244.