Cooper twice challenged for a heavyweight title and was the first man to ever drop Evander Holyfield
Philly Boxing History reports that two-time world title challenger Bert Cooper has died at the age of 53. Other sources cite the cause of death as pancreatic cancer.
Rest in Peace Smokin’ Bert Cooper. We received the sad news today that Bert Cooper passed away this afternoon…
Posted by Philly Boxing History on Friday, May 10, 2019
Known for both his ferocious power and substance abuse outside the ring, Cooper spent the early portion of his career under the tutelage of Philly legend Joe Frazier before quitting on the stool against George Foreman and subsequently testing positive for cocaine. “Smokin’” Bert went on to nearly finish Evander Holyfield as a massive underdog before falling in the seventh, then twice drop Michael Moorer in a losing bid for the WBO title.
This 1994 piece from HBO, detailing Cooper’s near-upset of Holyfield and the insane circumstances leading up to it, remains an excellent read.
Cooper’s spiral culminated in his 2002 retirement, but he returned eight years later with victories over Corey Winfield and Gabe Brown. Three consecutive defeats, one of them to current contender Luis Ortiz, resulted in his final exit from the ring in 2012 with a record of 38-25 (31 KO).
You can watch his battles with Holyfield and Moorer on YouTube; if nothing else, remember Cooper as a warrior.