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Canastota Chronicles: Coffee and Donuts With Smokin’ Bert Cooper

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Canastota Chronicles: Coffee and Donuts With Smokin’ Bert Cooper

Boxing fans often flock to Canastota for Hall of Fame weekend in hopes of meeting a few stars. I am no different than most fans in that I yearn for that once in a lifetime encounter with a boxing superstar whenever I am in Canastota. As a matter of fact, the very first fighter I ever met there was Felix Trinidad and still proudly display the glove he signed for me in a prominent place in my mancave.

But its not all about just meeting the “stars” of the sport when attending Hall of Fame weekend. You just never know who you will bump into and maybe even spark a friendship. For me that random encounter took place at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from the Hall of Fame and gave me two years’ worth of unforgettable memories.

Anyone who has ever been to Canastota knows that things can sometimes get a little congested Hall of Fame weekend in that small town. Saturday is usually a busy day on the Hall of Fame grounds with all sorts of events that tend to draw large crowds. I was on the grounds as usual with my wife Kelly on Saturday June 10th, 2017 and as the day ended, we decided to head across the street to Dunkin Donuts instead of battle an ensuing traffic jam.

As I sat there watching out the window sipping my coffee, I noticed an individual enter who looked like someone I should know. Well, he must have noticed me staring and came right over to sit down next to me. Definitely not what I was expecting but he soon stuck his hand out and introduced himself as Bert. That’s when I knew who was sitting next to me.

I was frozen for a second and in my head was trying to quickly recount as many of Bert’s past fights as possible. Shortly after he sat down next to me another individual walked in and came over to the table. He asked if I could watch over Bert for a minute and make sure he didn’t leave. This person told me he’d be back in ten minutes.

My wife shot me the look of let’s just get out of here. But I couldn’t. And I wanted to make sure Bert stayed put. I am not sure to this day why this is the first thing I thought of but I wanted to get some conversation going with Bert to make sure he didn’t suddenly split. So, knowing he was from Philadelphia, I asked he ever fought at the Blue Horizon.

He did. It apparently wasn’t a particularly fond memory of Bert’s.

With that awkward start out of the way, Bert went right into telling me about his fight with George Foreman. I am guessing he figured I’d recognize the name and well it was quite the sensational story. I will steer away from the X rated version but essentially Bert claimed Foreman sent hookers and drugs to his hotel room the night before the fight. He went into details. My wife looked petrified and clearly wanted to leave.

So, I swerved quickly and got Bert talking about other fights as well as moments from his career. And he could talk. Eventually that person showed back up and joined us along with Junior Jones. It was quite the experience and at the end as we parted ways Bert asked me if we could have lunch next year. I said sure thinking it’d never happen.

But it did. The person who I referenced earlier who asked me to make sure Bert didn’t leave Dunkin Donuts was named Sam Bearman. He was an attorney who had a passion for boxing and was assisting some former fighters with various matters. One was Bert along with Junior Jones and Riddick Bowe. Sam contacted me during Hall of Fame weekend in 2018 and asked if we were still on for lunch with Bert. Of course, my answer was yes.

When I first saw Bert in 2018 he sure acted like he remembered me (not sure if he really did or if Sam helped juggle his memory). Bert whipped out a black and white photo right away and asked if I wanted an autograph. So, I said sure and knowing he probably wanted a few bucks I began to pull out my wallet. Bert saw this and said that while he usually charges fans, he never charges friends. I offered anyway and he refused to take any money.

We headed off the Hall of Fame grounds for lunch to this little restaurant in the heart of Canastota called Three Pines. Bert made sure to introduce himself to the few patrons who were seated as well as all the staff. Possibly wanting to avoid a scene the hostess took us to the back dining area that was unoccupied.

Generally, when I go to Canastota I watch several past fights of the many fighters who I know will be in attendance that week. That way just in case I come into contact with someone I am prepared to spark a conversation about their career. Knowing there was a better than outside chance I’d bump into Bert again I watched many of his old fights just in case we’d head out to lunch.

Anyway, I probably recounted a dozen or so fights with Bert that day. Since we had plenty of room in the area that we were stashed back in at the restaurant he even gave me a demonstration of how he knocked out Richie Melito. In doing so I thought for a second that I was going to be on the receiving end of his patented left hook.

Eventually the owner came over and asked me if Bert was really a famous boxer. I said yes. She asked him for an autographed picture and he gleefully ran out to the car where he left the photos to get one to sign for her. She told us next year when we come the photo would be in a frame on the wall with the other signed pictures.

My wife and I would soon have to part ways to head to Turning Stone for the boxing card that evening. Before we parted Bert told me that we’d have to get together next year as he had more stories that he wanted to share from his career.

But that was the last time I saw Bert. About a month before the 2019 Hall of Fame weekend Bert suddenly passed away.

I decided not to go back to Three Pines restaurant in 2019. It was just too soon as just a year earlier Bert was in his happy place there talking about his career with a diehard fan who soaked up every second of his stories. I figured in 2020 I’d stop by and hopefully see that photo displayed on the wall. But that did not happen.

The plan is this year for me to make it back to Three Pines for the first time since I had that lunch with Bert and Sam Bearman. Unfortunately, it will be just my wife and I. Sam also passed away sometimes shortly after Bert’s death.

The stories Bert told me I will never forget. And that’s why I head out to Canastota whenever there is an induction weekend. You just never know who you will meet and with whom you will develop lifelong friendships through the shared passion of the sport of boxing.

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Alycia Baumgardner vs Elhem Mekhaled: Female Splendor at MSG 

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Alycia Baumgardner vs Elhem Mekhaled: Female Splendor at MSG

Two bouts between women, which will turn the winners into undisputed champions in the featherweight and super featherweight divisions, will create an electrifying atmosphere this Saturday, February 4th at Madison Square Garden.

In the duel between the two southpaws, Puerto Rican Amanda Serrano (43-2-1, 30 KOs), based in Brooklyn), will defend her 126-pound WBC, IBF and WBO titles, while Mexican Erika Cruz (15-1, 3 KOs) will defend her WBA title.

Also, of great interest will be the fight between American Baumgardner (13-1, 7 KOs), 130-pound WBC, IBF and WBO champion and her opponent, French challenger Elhem Mekhaled (15-1, 3 KOs), who will try to snatch Baumgardner’s titles and get the vacant WBA title, which belonged to the undefeated Korean Choi Hyun-Mi (20-1, 5 KOs).

Choi, who was born in Pyongyang, North Korea but left the country with her family at the age of 14 and settled in Seoul, South Korea, was declared “Champion in Recess”, as she suffers from a medical condition that prevents her from fighting. Once she fully recovers, she will have the possibility of facing, as a mandatory challenger, the winner between Baumgardner and Mekhaled.

For Baumgardner, who was born 28 years ago in Ohio, but now lives and trains in Michigan, the fight in New York will once again allow her to showcase her skills in the United States after three consecutive fights in the United Kingdom.

In her most recent bout, Baumgardner defeated her compatriot Mikaela Mayer (17-1, 5 KOs) in a difficult brawl, from whom she snatched the IBF and WBO belts, while retaining the WBC belt. The bout was October 15th of last year at the O2 Arena in London. Two of the officials, Steve Gray and John Latham, scored the fight 96-95 in favor of Baumgardner, but Terry O’Connor saw it 97-93 for Mayer.

Four days later, Choi unanimously defeated Canada’s Vanessa Bradford (6-4-2, 0 KOs) in Seoul, earning the Asian her ninth successful defense of the WBA super featherweight crown, which she has held since May 2014, when she anesthetized the now retired Thai, Siriwan Thongmanit.

The following month, in November, the WBA ordered Choi to defend her belt in a mandatory duel against Baumgardner, making the winner the undisputed queen of 130 pounds.

ELHEM MEKHALED FILLS THE VACANCY OF SOUTH KOREAN CHOI

To fill the vacancy of the South Korean Choi, the IBF Committee awarded the position to Mekhaled who ranks third in the women’s 130-pound rankings.

Former interim WBC titleholder, Mekhaled, 31 years old and born in Paris, has recently lost by unanimous decision to Belgian Delfine Persoon (47-3, 19 KOs) at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi where they disputed the vacant WBC silver belt.

The duel against Baumgardner not only allows Mekhaled to debut in the United States, but also provides her the opportunity to become the undisputed champion at 130 pounds.

Mekhaled emphasized that the February 4th event has great significance for women fighters and that this is a sign that the discipline is growing, with more and more fight cards in which women exhibit the leading role.

The French boxer said that after winning the interim title in 2015, she waited a long time for the opportunity to fight for the regular belt, but unfortunately it never materialized.

Mekhaled explained that after a long period of focusing on her personal life and not really training, she accepted the duel with Delfine Persoon with only two weeks of preparation, which led to the setback against the Belgian boxer.

“Since my WBC interim 2019 title, I’ve been waiting for this moment,” said Mekhaled. “Maybe fate has played well; instead of one belt, they’re all on the line. I am super excited to fight on February 4th at the legendary MSG in New York. God knows how determined I am! It’s my time to shine. Thank you to my advisor Sarah Fina.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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How good is Jake Paul? Shane Mosley’s Answer May Surprise You

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Few celebrities in the world today are as polarizing as Jake Paul. The 26-year-old Cleveland native who fights Tommy Fury in an 8-round match on Feb. 26 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has fervent fans and equally fervent detractors. To long-time aficionados of boxing, especially those born before the arrival of the internet, Jake Paul and his ilk are widely looked upon as a scourge.

Paul first entered the squared circle on Aug. 25, 2018, at the Manchester Arena in England. He fought fellow YouTube star Deji Olatunji in the co-feature to a match between their respective older brothers, Logan Paul and the “influencer” known as KSI. The combatants promoted the event on their social media platforms

These were exhibitions fought with headgear. Jake Paul stopped Olatunji whose corner pulled him out after five rounds. However, the results wouldn’t appear on boxrec, the sport’s official record-keeper.

No serious boxing fan paid this curious event any heed, but the folks that profit from the sport without taking any punches stood up and took notice. The on-site gate reportedly exceeded $3 million. The event reportedly generated 1.3 million pay-per-view buys worldwide (youtube charged $10 a pop) with nearly as many beholders catching a free ride on a pirate stream. A new era was born, or at least a new sub-set of a heretofore calcified sport.

Jake Paul had his first professional fight on Jan. 30, 2020, in Miami. In the opposite corner was a British social media personality of Saudi Arabian lineage who took the name AnEsonGib. Paul stopped him in the opening round.

Paul fought once more that year, knocking out former NBA star Nate Robinson, and three times in 2021, opposing Ben Askren and then Tyron Woodley twice. Askren and Woodley were former MMA champions who had fabled careers as U.S. collegiate wrestlers, but both were newcomers to boxing.

According to Forbes, Jake Paul made $31 million from boxing in 2021. And therein lies the rub. While thousands of would-be future champions, many with deep amateur backgrounds, toiled away in boxing gyms honing their craft while hoping to attract the eye of an important promoter, a guy like Jake Paul came along and jumped the queue. It just ain’t fair.

In preparation for his pro debut against AnEson Gib, Paul spent time in Big Bear, California, training at the compound of Shane Mosley. A first ballot Hall of Famer (class of 2020), Mr. Mosley needs no introduction to readers of this web site. And when he says that Jake Paul is legit, one is inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“I taught him the fundamentals,” says Mosley, “but Jake was a good listener and a hard worker. He’s a good athlete and he has a boxer’s mentality. We took him down the street to Abel Sanchez’s gym and had him spar with real professional fighters. He would spar with anybody and when he got caught with a hard punch he wouldn’t back down. He loves the sport and he relished the competition.”

Mosley stops short of saying that Jake Paul could hold his own with Canelo Alvarez – Paul preposterously called out Canelo after out-pointing 47-year-old MMA legend Anderson Silva in his most recent fight – but with so many titles up for grabs in this balkanized sport, it wouldn’t   surprise Mosely if the self-styled “Problem Child” latched hold of one before this phase of his life was over.

A three-time national amateur champion and a world champion at 135, 147, and 154 pounds as a pro, Shane Mosley put Pomona, California on the boxing map. He represented that city in LA county throughout his illustrious career. His son of the same name was born there.

Mosley fought twice in his hometown as he was coming up the ladder and will be back there again on Feb. 18 when Shane Mosley Jr appears on the undercard of a Golden Boy Promotions card at Pomona’s historic Fox Theater. It’s not official yet so we won’t divulge the name of Shane’s opponent, but the main event will pit Luis Nery against Azat Hovhannisyan in a WBC Super Bantamweight Eliminator, a match that shapes up as an entertaining skirmish as both have fan-friendly styles.

Shane Mosley Jr Sr

Shane Mosley Jr & Sr

Shane Mosley Jr, who turned 31 in December, will never replicate his father’s fistic accomplishments; his dad set the bar too high. But the younger Mosley is a solid pro who is on a pretty nice roll, having won five of his last six since losing a 10-round decision to Brandon Adams in the finals of season 5 of The Contender series. In his last outing, he out-slicked rugged Gabriel Rosado to win a regional super middleweight title.

The elder Mosely has been working with his son at Bones Adams gym in Las Vegas and will be in junior’s corner on Feb. 18. It will be a double-homecoming for Pomona’s favorite sons.

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Arne K. Lang’s third boxing book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” has rolled off the press. Published by McFarland, the book can be ordered directly from the publisher or via Amazon.

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Amanda Serrano Seeks Undisputed Status at 126 with Katie Taylor on the Horizon 

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After becoming the boxing icon of Puerto Rico last year, Amanda Serrano will try to make history again when she faces the Mexican southpaw Erika Cruz on February 4th at the Hulu theater in Madison Square Garden.

Promoter Eddie Hearn stated, “Puerto Rico vs Mexico fights always deliver fireworks, and we can expect nothing less when Amanda and Erika meet. Their clash of styles will make for a brilliant spectacle as Amanda and her army of fans return to the scene of her history-making fight of the year with Katie, and we can expect a similar atmosphere to one of the greatest nights the sport has ever seen.”

Champion in several sanctioning bodies, Serrano (43-2-1, 30 KOs) will put her WBC, IBF and WBO featherweight belts on the line, while Cruz (15-1, 3 KOs) will be defending the WBA belt. If she succeeds, the thirty-four-year-old Serrano, a native of Puerto Rico who has lived in Brooklyn, New York since childhood, will become the first boxer from Puerto Rico to hold the four most recognized belts in boxing.

“This is a pivotal moment, not just for me and my own career but for my home island of Puerto Rico,” said Serrano. “Earning the opportunity to be an undisputed lineal champion is something most fighters only dream about but becoming the first boxer from Puerto Rico to be an undisputed champion would make it even more special. I look forward to entering the ring in my hometown of NYC back at Madison Square Garden, taking on a Mexican champion in Erika Cruz and making Puerto Rican history. I encourage all my fans to turn up and tune in!”

The Puerto Rican boxer, who has won 30 of her 46 fights within the distance, said that if Cruz has a tactical plan in place that consists of exchanging punches, the bout will not go the 10 scheduled rounds.

Last September, Serrano unanimously defeated then-undefeated Dane Sarah Mahfoud (11-1, 3 KOs, in Manchester, England. Previously, in April, Serrano lost a split decision to Ireland’s Katie Taylor (22-0, 6 KOs) who successfully defended her four lightweight belts. Two judges scored the fight (97-93) for Taylor and the other (96-94) in favor of Serrano.

Taylor and Serrano became the first female boxers to headline a boxing match at Madison Square Garden. The two ladies also made history by each receiving a check for more than a million dollars which had an increase from pay-per-view earnings.

Referring to a possible rematch against Taylor, Serrano commented that if she beats Cruz, as expected, and if/when she meets Taylor for the second time (possibly in May in Ireland), it would be an epic duel between two undisputed champions: Serrano at 126 pounds and Taylor at 135.

Even though Serrano longs for a rematch with Taylor, she realizes that her immediate challenge is Cruz and has assured us that she is in excellent shape physically, technically, and mentally. She has increased the amount of sparring in camp, focusing on aggressiveness and explosiveness. She’s also added a sports massage therapist to her team which has helped with recovery.

In regard to a second confrontation between Serrano and Taylor, promoter Eddie Hearn stated, “For Serrano to become undisputed at 126 and then fight Katie again for the undisputed at 135 at Croke Park in Dublin, it would make that rematch even bigger if you can imagine that.”

Cruz, 32 years old and born in Mexico City, has put together a win streak of 14 following her loss to compatriot Alondra González on June 25, 2016, in Puebla, Mexico. Cruz conquered the WBA world belt on April 22, 2022, when she defeated Canadian Jelena Mrdjenovich who was unable to continue in the seventh round due to a cut caused by an accidental headbutt.

Erika Cruz

Erika Cruz

Five months later, on September 3, Cruz faced Mrdjenovich for a second time and again came out with her arm raised, this time winning by unanimous decision in Hermosillo, Mexico, where she retained the WBA title for the second time.

Cruz is looking forward to the matchup with Serrano. “I am grateful that this opportunity was finally given to me after many years of work,” said Cruz. “I have always gone against everything, but God is on my side, and he has given me the strength to achieve my goals. It’s time to make history and give Mexico its first unified champion at 126 lbs.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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