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

Bring It On!

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This is the Finals we’ve all been waiting for: The Warriors vs. the Cavaliers, and now the Warriors have KD, Kevin Durant. It’s Ali / Frazier III all over again.  And this time, Love and Kyrie aren’t hurt, and hopefully Draymond Green won’t get suspended. So both teams will be at full strength, and we’ll see who’s boss. 

As Kobe once said, “to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.” So if you think you’re all that and a bag of chips, you shouldn’t worry who you’re playing. When you’ve got confidence and conviction and assurance and assertion, it doesn’t matter who’s lining up on the other side of the ball.

And the same principle applies spiritually. We who trust in the God of Heaven shouldn’t be worried or concerned when we’re challenged or cornered or confronted or called out. We know we’ve got a God who will fight our battles. We’ve got a God who’s got our back and our front too. We’ve got a God who won’t back down or back up or give in or give out when we need Him most. We’ve got a God who’s not afraid of the enemy or the opposition. Not in the least.  When we have a problem or a glitch or a quandary or a conundrum, our God says “Bring it On!”  We just have to hold on and hold out and not give up.

So wake up! It’s time to watch NBA Finals, and these Finals should show some of the best basketball ever. And if I fall asleep during one of those late night games, it will be because it’s way past my bedtime, not because one team is playing bad ball. But the action and the excitement and the drama should be enough to keep me awake, right?

The plot is thick and subplots are plenty. Will Durant get his ever elusive championship ring after jumping ship and leaving the Thunder behind and joining the Warriors? Will LeBron win back-to-back championships in Cleveland, after starting his career there before jumping ship and going to the Heat to win two rings on South Beach?

And will these be the best Finals ever?

Bring it on.

“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.