No More ESPN Fights
Last week, Mike Tyson was in the news. A tragic story of his four year old daughter passing away from an accidental strangulation in their home in Phoenix- wow, heart wrenching, and tragic, even for a guy that many people dislike, you have to feel for the father of a young child that dies suddenly.
For all the punches to the body and head that Tyson has taken over the years in the ring, no blow could possibly have been lower.
After taking a moment and feeling sympathy for the former heavyweight champion of the boxing world … it’s hard not to think … what happened to boxing? Seriously. Especially, the HEAVYWEIGHT division … what’s the deal? Why don’t we hear about the BIG fights anymore?
Let me ask you a question … can you name the top ten ranked heavyweights in the world? Can you name the top 3? Top 2? Can you name any of the reigning champions? Seriously … remember back in the late 80s and early 90s when Tyson was in his prime?
We had not only boxers, but personalities … true ICONs of the sporting world. Tyson, Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Buster Douglas, and George Foreman – and even through the 90s – guys like James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Tommy Morrison, Oliver McCall (don’t cry), Michael Moorer, Ray Mercer, Razor Ruddock, Riddick Bowe, and the great Lennox Lewis … just to name a few. These guys were household names. They fought each other every couple months. The heavyweight division was fantastic. Wait … I almost forget about Bert Cooper.
Remember Bert Cooper? Bert Cooper was a journeyman. He fought anyone and anywhere. You could often see Cooper’s bouts on ESPN Friday Night Fights. The matches on Friday Night Fights were not marquee by any means. In fact, you would see a lot of club fighters and/or marginal contenders. Cooper was never a top ranked contender, but he did fight for the heavyweight title on three different occasions.
The most memorable of those title shots was Cooper’s fight against Evander Holyfield back in November 1991. Cooper knocked down Holyfield in the 4th round, and appeared to have the champ in big trouble. Holyfield was able to get through that tough 4th round, and go on to score a TKO in the 7th round. The fight wasn’t what was the most memorable though – it was post game interview.
After Larry Merchant spoke with the champion, Holyfield, it was Bert’s turn at the mic with Merchant. Merchant told Bert that he showed a lot of guts, and toughness. Merchant asked Cooper if he thought that he had Holyfield’s title in that 4th round – and Merchant asked Cooper if he thought this fight would define his boxing career and/or launch Cooper into the elite of the heavyweight division.
Cooper responded humbly – but Cooper’s last three lines were poetic – Cooper said, “No more ESPN fights. No more ESPN fights. Yeah … no more ESPN fights.” The interview ended.
Some months later – guess who was back on ESPN? You guess it, our man Bert Cooper.
That’s the thing. Even almost 20 years later, we can reference a memorable story about the heavyweight division. Do you remember the morning you woke up to hear that Tyson lost to Buster Douglas in Tokyo? Remember when Larry Holmes tried to drop kick Trevor Berbeck off a limo? Or how about the ear biting incident? What happened to those exciting times?
Let’s get back to our earlier questions. Do you know who the title holders are currently in the heavyweight division?
WBA Champion: Nicolay Valuev
IBF and WBO Champion: Wladimir Klitschko
WBC Champion: Vitali Klitschko
Did you know any of them? Did you notice that none are Americans?
How about the top ten contenders?
1. Chris Arreola
2. Alexander Dimitrenko
3. Ray Austin
4. Oleg Maskaev
5. Eddie Chambers
6. Alexander Povelkin
7. Odlanier Solis
8. James Toney
9. Juan Carlos Gomez
10. Kevin Johnson
Be honest … how many of those names do you recognize? Seriously.
Whether two old dudes in the barber shop are talking about Cassius Clay, Joe Lewis, and Rocky Marciano – or two friends are rapping about Tyson’s best knockouts. It’s just not the same anymore. We aren’t going to be trash talking about Vitali’s PHD – that’s not a Friends TV Show reference – by the way – its reference to Vitali’s PHD in sports medicine. There isn’t anything too exciting anymore in the heavyweight division of boxing. And frankly the most exciting thing we have seen over the last ten years in the heavyweight division was in a movie – Ocean’s Eleven – does anyone know who was Wynn-ing between Lewis and Klitschko?
Come back Bert … come back … we miss you.
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