Stevie Mitchell: PA Hoops Legend in the Making!

Elite High School basketball in small town Pennsylvania is different… There’s no competition for the attention of Hoopheads… There are no pro teams in Coatesville, Chester, Norristown, Allentown, Lebanon, Scranton and Reading. There are no high major college basketball teams. As a result, all of the considerable basketball energy in these hoop hotbeds is channeled toward scholastic teams. When the teams are contenders for state championships and/or feature high major college prospects things become especially intense.

Special teams and players are revered… Truly great small town PA high hchool players are exalted to legendary status before they go the prom. This I know because I have seen it first hand. As a 12 year old in 1977, I encountered the legend of Bob Stevenson. Larger than life in the small town of Elk Lake, Stevenson was my introduction to small town PA basketball superstardom.

Darby Township High School had beaten Stevenson and Elk Lake in 1975 on the way to a State Championship title. In 1977, an undefeated Darby Township entered yet another do or die playoff matchup matchup with Elk Lake and their feature attraction. This Single ‘A’ playoff game drew a record crowd of 5,100 fans to the Scranton CYC. In an incredibly physical contest, Elk Lake benefited immensely from many trips from the foul line. Darby Township’s imposing frontline (Alton McCoullough 6’9″, Billy Johnson 6’7″ and Mike Gale 6’6″) was effectively neutralized by the referees as Stevenson converted an incredible 26 of his 30 attempts at the charity stripe in an Elk Lake win.

636574098494294063-img356

Billy Owens, Carlisle High School 1987

Two year later, as Darby Township made yet another of it’s many runs deep into PIAA playoffs one would constantly hear the name Sam Bowie from Lebanon Cedar. In the mid 80’s it was Billy Owens and Jeff Lebo from Carlisle. By the early 90’s, Reading’s Donyell Marshall was the man. Lower Merion’s Kobe Bryant and Coatesville’s Rip Hamilton also ascended to legendary status before crossing the stage to receive their diplomas. More recently, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson cemented his iconic status in Chester well before his graduation.

A couple years ago, I actually attended the parade they held for the great Lonnie Walker after he closed out his prolific scholastic career at Reading HS with a state title.

maxresdefault

Lonnie Walker during Reading’s State Championship Parade

Here we go again…

The last 10 months have witnessed the rapid rise of another small town basketball legend in the commonwealth. Last season, Stevie Mitchell was a very good basketball player for Wilson West Lawn in Berks County. He was ballin’ out… But very few outside of Berks County knew who he was.

He played with a solid AAU club… Team Final-Red has a solid track record of developing area kids, but Mitchell longed to compete on a national stage. He wanted those bright lights that only the shoe companies can provide. Enter Philly Pride which plays on the Under Armour Association Circuit. These guys get kids the exposure they need… Philly Pride annually produces anywhere from 7-9 Division 1 basketball players.

Some prospects come with little to no fanfare and literally blow up in a matter of weeks while barnstorming with Philly Pride. See for example, current Atlanta Hawk Charlie Brown. After the completion of his senior season at George Washington HS in Philadelphia’s Public League, Brown had exactly ZERO (0) Division 1 scholarship offers. Indeed, he had verbally committed to D2 West Chester which plays in the PSAC. After playing with Philly Pride for a few weeks, Brown had over 15 Scholarship offers from mid to high major programs across the nation. He ended up committing to Phil Martelli and St. Joseph’s. There are many other examples.

John Harrar toiled away in Delaware County. He was known primarily as a high major football prospect. While he was a very good basketball player at Strath Haven, the scholarships offers were few and far between. Big John suited up for Philly Pride, played at a few stops, tossed a few jokers around like rag dolls and next thing you know UConn is hitting him up. Then they offered… Subsequently, the other big boys decided to jump in… Pat Chambers and Penn State fell in love with Big John and on a visit John determined that the feeling was mutual… Done deal… Big John went from a virtual unknown to a Big 10 basketball player courtesy of Philly Pride.

In February 2019, Stevie Mitchell was a small town guard putting up big numbers with a flashy game. He was very productive in Berks County. As is the case with all the small town superstars, upon first glance the question looms: Can he do it against top competition?

Although they never expressed any reservations, its safe to assume that Kamal Yard and Amauro Austin, Philly Pride Co-Directors wondered exactly what they had on their hands. How would Mitchell’s small-town suburban-bred game translate on the super-athletic, fast-paced Under Armour Association Circuit? How would Stevie do against some of the very best players in the nation?

58610133_10214257364615776_7675370410677895168_n

Stevie Mitchell, Philly Pride

Austin notes that any concerns he may have had were quickly allayed when he observed Mitchell’s work ethic. “He absolutely wanted to attend every voluntary workout and open gym we had. Stevie and his parents drove over an hour each way whenever there was a chance to get in the gym and work.”

Mitchell’s character also impressed Austin. “Stevie doesn’t want anything extra. So many kids want sneakers or gear… He just wanted an opportunity to compete.” In an era when so many young people feel entitled to special treatment and extra benefits Mitchell was a breath of fresh air for Philly Pride.

Then they started playing games…

Like thoroughbred jumping out the gate at Churchill Downs, Mitchell was off and running! Game after game, he would score from all 3 levels and put the clamps on highly ranked opposing guards. He would regularly drop 25-30 points per game and be the very best on-ball defender on the court. The consummate teammate, Mitchell consistently collected 4-5 steals while constantly communicating with teammates on the defensive end. The HIGH MAJOR potential became impossible to ignore.

Offensively, his game is fully loaded… Mitchell can pull-up from mid-range… He can catch and make 3’s from deep. A crafty and shifty ball handler, he create space with crossovers, in and out dribbles and step back moves. While he is capable of getting by his defender at will, Mitchell is a very calm and patient player.

EGzO06aXYAEEHQc

Stevie Mitchell and Aaron McKie

After just a few weeks with Philly Pride, La Salle Head Coach, Ashley Howard had seen enough. On May 1, 2019 he offered Mitchell a basketball scholarship. About six weeks later Temple Head Coach Aaron McKie and VCU would join in the race for his services. By the end of the summer, Mitchell’s offers were well into the double figures.

9357671

As the Under Armour Association season came to a close, Mitchell was named the UAA 16u MVP after leading Philly Pride to the top spot in UAA and the number one ranking in the country. The small town kid was officially declared the best 16U player on a major shoe company summer circuit.

Oh… by the way, he also led Philly Pride to the 16U National Championship.

66929513_10214764519814339_3048357376252968960_n

Stevie Mitchell and the Championship Philly Pride UAA 16U Team

As the foliage started to turn yellow and red, what had been a buzz began to transform into a roar. More and more coaches took note of his refined and polished game, his tenacious approach and his burning desire to emerge victorious. The big boys joined in the chase. St. Joseph’s, Marquette, Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Miami and Stanford among others expressed their desire to have Mitchell join their programs.

People started to look closely under the hood… They were pleased to see a very high Grade Point Average and outstanding test scores. What? Wait a minute… He’s an Ivy League caliber student? Are you serious? Yessssssir… Next thing you know Penn and Harvard are making their way to Wilson West Lawn open gyms and practices.

5df44cb949b5e.image

Perhaps more than any other kid in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Mitchell has a extremely wide range of options. He can opt for high major basketball in the ACC, SEC, Big East or Big 10. Or, he could decide to pursue the academic challenge of playing at Harvard or Penn.

With all of this going on, Black Cager Sports decided to check up on Mitchell and catch his game with heated rival Reading High School. Arriving early at 4:30 pm for a 7:00 pm varsity tilt, the sense of anticipation was palpable. The stands were 80% filled for the JV game. The fans were absolutely eager to get this thing underway.

This is the suburbs… There was no metal detector… The staff at Wilson West Lawn was warm and welcoming. They noticed my cameras and bag. When I noted that I was from Black Cager Sports and ESPN Radio they made sure I was comfortable and had everything I needed to get my work done. Impressive… First Class…

Mitchell sat in the stands right behind the JV bench with a few of his varsity teammates. Whenever there was timeout, he would jump up and stand on the edge of the JV huddle absorbing the coaches instruction.

The consummate teammate…

At halftime, the gym now filled to capacity, coaches from St. Joseph’s, Marquette, Notre Dame, Harvard and Villanova were following Mitchell’s every move. He gets up stands under the basket and rebounds for the JV players as they shoot in preparation for the second half. The HS All-American, the MVP of the Under Armour Association, the kid with 20+ high major offers was chasing down errant shots and passing to 14 and 15 year old JV teammates. Mitchell was offering words of encouragement to guys that will not see a minute of time in the varsity game.

The consummate teammate…

82741120_485721968810604_8609336887716347904_n

Wilson Middle School Students and diehard Stevie Mitchell fans

I’m seated with about 12 of my newfound 6th and 7th grade friends along the baseline. These guys are chattering non-stop about ‘Stevie Mitchell.’ I feign ignorance and ask “Is Stevie really that good?” These kids, all 12 of them were insulted… How dare I ask such a question… I must be from another planet…

I pushed further… “I bet he can’t even dunk”

Within 30 seconds 4 different kids were waving their smartphones in my face with videos of Stevie dunking repeating on the screens.

“Look… look… look…”

“Ok… Ok…”

So the game finally gets underway. The very nice Wilson West Lawn gymnasium with stadium style seating is filled to capacity… Standing room only for the Stevie Mitchell show.

The Wilson West Lawn Athletic Director sees me surrounded by my energetic and boisterous new found friends. He offers me a padded chair, I declined. I drove over an hour for the full experience and these kids were definitely helping me achieve that goal. I had to watch with my guys.

Wilson West Lawn jumps out early 15-3 lead after the first quarter. Stevie is taking his time… Letting the game come to him. His team is well coached. They run their sets and demonstrate a lot of patience. Whenever there is a breakdown in the Reading zone they pounce and get a clean, relatively easy look at the basket.

But, this is rivalry game and, of course, it tightened up. At the 4:13 mark of the 2nd quarter the score is 19-11. Reading is scratching, clawing, fighting every step of the way. It’s an effective strategy. With 2:41 left in the 2nd quarter the gap has closed to 4 points, 21-17.

The Reading game plan is clear. They were determined to prevent Mitchell from going off. He was face guarded end to end. Whenever he beat his initial defender, there was ‘no layup’ rule in place and it was strictly enforced. Reading defenders put Mitchell on his ass each and every time he attacked the basket.

Good ol’ fashioned HARD basketball fouls.

Halfway through, the score was 28-24 Wilson. After the 3rd, Wilson was up 5, 36-31.

Wilson won going away… 54-38

83197183_1394138020764623_8542369156341694464_n

Young boy wearing an authentic Stevie Mitchell autographed basketball shirt

 

Philly Pride’s Kamal Yard noted that “Mitchell has an incredible ability to put a bad play or a bad game behind him a focus on what’s in front of him. Even though he rarely has a bad moment on the court, when he does he shakes it off better than any player I’ve seen.”

Mitchell would only convert 3 field goals. But he would finish with 21 points because he cashed in on 15 out of 19 free throw attempts.

After the game, Mitchell was surrounded by at least 50 kids seeking autographs.

82338082_663901921016502_1111436630243147776_n

Mitchell signs autographs after the game

If you still harbor any questions about his legendary status, drive out to Wilson West lawn and catch a game they will be erased by the final buzzer. In the Fall of 2021, Mitchell will join a college basketball program. Whoever is fortunate enough to secure his services will welcome an intelligent, selfless, immensely talented, highly competitive champion.

A legend will be on the yard…

O’Hara Basketball… The Best Delco has to offer?

Delaware County has a strong basketball tradition… Growing up in Delaware County in the 70’s, and 80’s hoopheads were always focused on mighty programs in Chester, Darby-Colwyn and Darby Township. Occasionally, Penncrest, Yeadon, Bonner, Archbishop Carroll and Springfield would also field strong teams. Almost never was Cardinal O’Hara in the conversation…

Yeah… Yeah… they had the great Tom Ingelsby

Ingelsby played for the Lions from 1965 to 1969. In his junior season he helped the team win the Philadelphia Catholic League championship, knocking off Father Judge High School in the finals. Ingelsby’s O’Hara team fell short in the City Championship, losing to the West Philadelphia High School Speedboys. But beyond that… not much to the O’Hara hoops pedigree.

Times… They are a changin’…

A few years ago, O’Hara made the decision to, once again, get serious about their hoops program. They hired Jason Harrigan away from troubled Delaware Valley Charter High School to lead the basketball program and the Lions began to stick their heads outside the cage. After Delaware Valley Charter closed in June 2017, Harrigan brought the magnificent Antwaun “Booty” Butler (Austin Peay University) to O’Hara. With Butler manning the point guard position, O’Hara immediately became a factor in the Catholic League. No longer were the Lions thought of as “sweet.”

After going 6-16 in 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 5-17 in 2016-17, Harrigan and Butler led O’Hara to a respectable 11-12 record in 2017-18. Things were looking up in Springfield.

But Harrigan decided to move on and the Lions were once again looking for a coach that could keep the momentum moving forward.

Enter Ryan Nemetz

36137035_10155569328920737_6563191683100442624_n

Ryan Nemetz, O’Hara Head Coach

 

Nemetz is an intensely-focused and razor sharp lifelong hoophead. He was previously an Assistant Coach at Eastern University where he worked closely with the players in all areas of the program including recruiting, player development, academic progress and scouting. Eventually, Nemetz’s primary focus became serving as the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator.

Nemetz played collegiately at Kutztown University from 2007-2009 and then transferred to Temple University where he served as a walk-on and student assistant from 2010-2012 under Big 5 Hall of Fame Coach Fran Dunphy. One should note that all five years that Coach Nemetz participated in college basketball, his teams made the NCAA tournament.

Before joining the staff at Eastern University, Nemetz served as the Director of Player Development at the House of Sports (Westchester, NY), Senior Staff Coach at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) and Assistant Director of Team Nelson (Chester, PA) where he has coached numerous college and professional basketball players.

Nemetz has a keen understanding of the Delco and Philadelphia basketball landscape. He has been charged with the responsibility of managing the Jameer Nelson Point Guard Camp. In this capacity, he was able identify 20-30 of best guards in the Greater Philadelphia area and place them in a highly competitive setting on the campus of Girard College for 3 days under the tutelage of a 15 year NBA professional point guard.

Nemetz saw Isaiah Wong, Jhamir Brickus, Zahree Harrison, Naim Walker, Donta Scott, Seth Lundy and many other great high school players up close. He saw their work ethics… He saw their skill levels… He was able to effectively gauge the type of player and the level of effort that would be required to compete in the Philadelphia Catholic League.

Smart guy…

With O’Hara lacking a strong basketball tradition, Nemetz realized he had to be creative to lure smart, talented and athletic players to Springfield, Delaware County. Toward that end, Nemetz and O’Hara hosted the Black Cager Middle School Classic last February and March. This competitive circuit brought some of the best 7th graders in the region into O’Hara’s gym on two weekends to play against stiff competition from Virginia and Maryland.

55798293_2379561215396374_8272103335603994624_o

Maryland Freshman Starting Forward, Donta Scott, working Middle School Classic at O’Hara

 

Indeed, last night… four kids that played for Jarett Kearse’s WER1/Blue Magic club listed O’Hara as one of their final High School options alongside schools like Episcopal Academy, Friends’ Central and Shipley. These kids can play. They were dominant throughout the regular season on Black Cager Middle School Circuit. O’Hara and Nemetz made them and their families feel welcome when they played at O’Hara. Indeed, O’Hara was effectively Blue Magic’s home court last winter. One shouldn’t be surprised to hear “I wanna go to O’Hara” when these kids are asked where they want to play High School basketball.

These kids know O’Hara has a large, modern, well-lit gymnasium with stadium style seating on all sides. They know it’s one of the nicest facilities in the region.

These kids know Ryan Nemetz…

Last night, the nationally ranked Archbishop Wood Vikings traveled from Warminster to test the Lions… Exactly how far has O’Hara come? Clearly, they are good… But how good?

The kids watched an exciting and intensely competitive game. While O’Hara came into the game undefeated with wins over Catholic League contenders Archbishop Ryan and Bishop McDevitt… This would be THE test…

Well over 1,000 energetic spectators filled the gym. The enthusiastic O’Hara student-body was ready… Stephen Stewart from Delaware State, Boo Farmer from the Boo Farmer Podcast, Superscout Norm Eavenson and Nemetz’s mentor Fran Dunphy, the recently retired winningest coach in Big 5 history were there to see the highly anticipated matchup.

They were not disappointed…

O’Hara is a very good basketball team…Let me repeat… O’Hara is a very good basketball team…

However, John Mosco’s Archbishop Wood club is better and more experienced.

82106595_481828242736948_1936171699418431488_n

Rahsool Diggins, Rivals Top 100 Point Guard

 

One immediately notices that Nemetz’s Lions have a Jason Vorhees-like quality to them… You simply cannot kill these guys. After the 1st quarter they were down 2 and Wood, relying on the incredible athleticism of Daeshon Shepard and Muneer Newton, extended the lead to double digits rather quickly.

Then the Friday the 13th music starts to play in your head… O’Hara crawls out of the swamp… kicking, snatching, clinging and refusing to die. They go in at halftime down 2.

 

 

The second half starts and you are reminded why Wood is nationally ranked and one of the favorites to win the Catholic League title. Everywhere you look, they have Division 1 basketball prospects. Their point guard, Rahsool Diggins, is the smoothest guard in the mid-Atlantic region. His game is like Häagen-Dazs… creamy goodness… He lulls you to sleep and then he attacks… Never in a hurry… He gives you the in and out and lets it play out… You can see the defender thinking he has adjusted and has the situation under control and BAM… there’s a cross over leaving the defender flat footed as Sool has entered the lane… The help defender is on his way but he’s too late… The floater has been released… Splash!

The Vikings are setting their defense…

Less than four minutes into the third quarter, the 2 point lead has ballooned to 13… It’s starting to seem like it’s just too much… Jaylen Stinson is sniping and then he’s in your jersey with you playing a type of man to man on ball defense not often seen around these parts… Marcus Randolph is slashing, pulling up and relentlessly looking to attack… Muneer is rebounding and rebounding and rebounding… And…

Oh shit… Watch yo head!

Shepard is hanging on the rim again after catching and cleanly finishing the perfectly placed alley oop from Sool.

It’s just too much… So you think…

Here comes that Friday the 13th music in your head… They just won’t die… O’Hara, once again crawls out of the swamp… kicking, snatching and clinging… They cut the lead all the way back down to 2.

Watching the O’Hara backcourt (Anthony Purnell, Adrian Irving, Jr and Tre Dinkins) compete you just keep saying to yourself… “these guys are good.”

81680237_2372961246142245_3605423739874836480_n

Adrian Irving, Jr., Cardinal O’Hara Guard

 

In the end, however, Wood was better…

Nonetheless, Ryan Nemetz just may have assembled the best team in Delaware County. The matchups with Bonner-Prendie and Archbishop Carroll will feature very high level scholastic basketball. Perhaps, the best that Delaware County has to offer.

O’Hara is in the mix… Yup O’Hara… Can you believe this shit?

Bert Cooper and the Golden Age of Darby Township Sports

I’m a few months older than Bert Cooper… We grew up in what is, in effect, “South Southwest” Philadelphia… Darby Township begins where Southwest Philadelphia ends. When 84th Street turns into Hook Road, you have entered Darby Township.

Bert-Cooper-2

A small two stop light town of about 3,000 nestled against the SW corner of a city with 1.5 million residents.

Sports was a way of life…  Bert Cooper grew up in the Golden Age of Darby Township sports. All he knew was winning… The town was blessed… He was destined to become one of the greatest boxers in the world. Like so many of my childhood friends, Bert was blessed with God-given athletic talent and gifts. His rise was preordained.

When we were about 10 years old in 1975, Darby Township won a state Championship in basketball. These were different times. There was no travel ball… There was no recruiting… I could stand in front of my house and hit damn near every player’s home with a rock. We knew everyone on the team… We knew their Moms, Dads and all their siblings.

I had just begun to think seriously about sports… Like most boys in Darby Township I was getting into basketball. But for the most part, I was into bikes. Poppin’ wheelies with David “Top Job” Crawford and Donald Barton was my primary preccupation. So was Bert Cooper. We had minibikes. We didn’t follow any of the established safety protocols… We rode on the streets… We rode on the sidewalks… We used to ride through the park at full throttle… No helmet… Shit… My minibike didn’t have working brakes…

Carroll Buter had a dirtbike… Clarence “Poochie” Wilson had a Binelli minibike… I had a “Cat” 3.5HP minibike… Bert and his brothers had dirtbikes, minibikes and motorcycles…

Life was good… Who knew what Bert would become?

Muhammad Ali was the Heavyweight Champion of the world… He had just knocked out the big, bad, invincible George Foreman to regain the belt. His challengers were Ken Norton, Jimmy Young, Ron Lyle, Ernie Shavers and Leon Spinks. These guys were bigger than life itself.

The notion that Bert would challenge for same title held by Ali was incomprehensible…

Little did we know that God had a plan for Lil’ Bert Cooper to enter the pantheon of great heavyweights… And… Bert did it from the muscle… Boxing wasn’t the sport of choice in the Darby Township.

When we were 12, the Darby Township HS basketball team was undefeated until losing in a Final Four game to Bob Stephenson and Elk Lake.

By the time we were 13, Darby Township High had an undefeated football team featuring Cardell Baskerville, Vincent Clark and Gary Gadsen. They were so good, that we believed we were HIGH MAJOR! These guys were so talented and performed so well, we didn’t realize we were the poor, little Black school… Seriously…

All we knew was that there was absolutely nothing you could do once Gadsen handed the rock to Baskerville or Clark. They were going to run through you, over you or around you. Unbelievable how much talent God packed into this tiny tight-knit community. Baskerville and Clark both rushed for over a thousand yard. They both imposed their will on opposing teams with a combination of quickness, speed and power at the point of contact.

Booooom! That first hit is not bringing either of them down… Now what?

As fall faded into winter, the balls started bouncing in the gym. After a season that saw Darby Township’s undefeated campaign thwarted by Elk Lake, Alton McCoullough was ready to lead the Eagles back to Hershey. Mission accomplished…

Just too much… Alton was just too much… With super sophomores Kevin Gale and Derick Loury on the wings, the Eagles trounced the competition and once again played for the state title.

This is what Lil’ Bert Cooper saw when he was 13… Winning… Domination… Little Darby Township held it’s own every time out…Why not him?

Track season came around… What else? State Championship…

The Eagle’s finest sprinter Ward Crump and running back Vincent Clark would be featured in Sports Illustrated a couple months apart from one another.

Darby Township… A Lil’ Louder Now…

By 1980, Kevin Gale is the best basketball player in Delaware County and the Eagles are once again in the State Championship game.

Bert fucked around on the court… But he wasn’t a basketball player… His little brother Jimmy was a magnificent player and his older brothers Monte and Jonah were both good players. But, Burt played basketball like he boxed. Nonetheless, he was usually not far from one of the courts…

When we were around 15 or 16… Bert started bringing boxing gloves to the basketball court. Lex Jones and Robert Bell would “spar” with Bert in the park. Lacking any real boxing skills and possessing an overabundance of heart, these guys used to beat the shit out of one another for hours.

Life was good…

They were just fucking around… Or, so we thought…

Little did we know, a spark was lit in Bert… He found his calling…

Knockin’ dudes out!

58654847_589832484838330_6418454699965163920_n

He sought out the great Joe Frazier and embarked upon a pugilistic career would earn him respect across the globe.

It’s the fall 1984, Bert’s been under the tutelage of Frazier for a couple years, we get the call… Bert’s pro debut is in Atlantic City.

What?

Newt waxes the Grand Prix, shines the rims and we’re out…

Spurg, Geoff and about 3 car loads make our way to the AC expressway… Couldn’t be late…

Seriously, you couldn’t be late…

Bert knocked out his opponent in the 1st round in 7 of his first 10 fights… Another one ended with a 2nd knockout and yet another ended in the 3rd.

Of course… we had a ball!

We drank too much… We smoked too much… We ate too much… We’re from Darby Township!

It got to a point where Newt, a lil’ tipsy, challenged Joe Frazier in the hotel room. “I can knock you out,” he said to the former heavyweight champion of the world.

You can’t make this up…

Surrounded by his friends, fresh off a knockout… Bert was smiling ear to ear… He had “FAT” roll with a couple hundred dollar bills surrounding about a thousand ones bulging in pocket.

These were the first steps on a legendary journey… Henry Tillman? Got ‘em… Willie de Wit? Got ‘em…

Eventually in 1989, they put my man from round da’ corner in with Big George Foreman… That one didn’t end too well… Sensing Bert’s out of the ring issues probably impacted his training, Foreman punished the body… He landed several heavy hooks in round 1 that hurt Bert. In round 2, he continued to attack the body and landed a solid right hook that stung Bert. Bert was done for the night, he remained on his stool and did not answer the bell to begin the 3rd round.

A year later, Bert knowked out Orlin Norris… He was back in the mix…

His next fight was a historic 12 round slugfest with Ray Mercer… Both men stood there and traded blow after blow with neither retreating an inch… Mercer won on points… They spend the night with each other in the emergency room…

Bert, just two months later, jumps in the ring with Riddick Bowe… Bad move… Bert was not fully recovered from his war with Mercer. He was knocked out by Bowe in the 2nd round.

Imagine what a healthy Bert Cooper could have accomplished? Imagine if Bert had been able to conquer his demons?

Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World! From Burton Avenue…

After reeling off 4 straight wins, in November 1991 Bert finds himself fighting for the title. He’s agreed to face one of the greatest boxers ever to grace the planet. Evander Holyfield was at his peak.

Bert, from Burton Avenue, was fuckin’ around… You’d see him here… You’d run into him over there… You heard about this… You heard about that…

The demons… Those fuckin’ demons…

But on that night you were there… Glued to the television…

Yeah… Yeah… Yeah… Holyfield is the shit… Yeah I saw the Olympics… Yeah I saw the Qawi fight…

Matter of fact I watched it with Bob Welsh and Brian Bacon… We got fucked up that night… So what?

I liked Bert to knock Holyfield the fuck out!

Seriously… I liked Bert to whoop his ass…

Seriously… I liked Cardell to run over Mean Joe Green…

Seriously… I liked Alton to post up Bob Lanier…

Seriously… I liked Crump to outrun Carl Lewis…

I’m from Township!

Ding!

The bell sounds and “Boom” Holyfield catches him… Bert goes down in round 1…

That’s NOT the plan… Uh Ooooh… Bert won’t stay down though, he gets up and takes the battle to Howlyfield.

Then… It happened… In round 3 Bert caught him and Holyfield is down for the first time in his career.

At that moment… Everyone from Darby Township trying mightily to lift our champion to victory… We were all screaming at the screen… Send telepathic signals through the airwaves… We thought we had it…

Holyfield endured Bert’s onslaught of power shots that very few men could withstand. A true champion he finally recovered and vanquished Bert in round 7.

Bert-Cooper-vs.-Evander-Holyfield_Ring-770x490

Cooper vs Holyfield

As only Darby Township would… We had a fuckin’ parade anyway!

For our champion… Bert Cooper represented lil’ Darby Township on the world stage.

A warrior, a fighter an MAN!

He would continue to fight another 2 decades with varying degrees of success. His fight with Michael Moore has also been elevated to legendary status.

Rest well Champion… You put in a lifetime of work…

I Love Bert Cooper… God Bless the Cooper family.

 

 

A Lil’ Louder Now…