Evander Holyfield Stops Bert Cooper This Day November 23, 1991 Retains Heavyweight Crown
- Evander Holyfield 210 lbs
- Bert Cooper 215 lbs
- TKO at 2:58 in round 7 of 12
- The Omni, Atlanta, Georgia
- Referee: Mills Lane
- Judge: Isidro Rodriguez 58-54
- Judge: John Rupert 59-54
- Judge: Sheila Harmon 59-53
- WBA/IBF Heavyweight Title
Holyfield had been scheduled to fight Mike Tyson in Las Vegas on November 8, 1991, but the fight was canceled after Tyson suffered a rib injury during training. Holyfield was then scheduled to face Francesco Damiani in Atlanta on November 23, but Damiani pulled out due to an ankle injury. Finally, Bert Cooper stepped in as a substitute for the substitute.
The World Boxing Council refused to sanction the fight because Cooper was not ranked by the organization. The bout was sanctioned by the World Boxing Association, which did not rank Cooper, and the International Boxing Federation, which ranked him twelfth.
Holyfield, who was going to earn $30 million for the Tyson fight, made $6 million for fighting Cooper, who was paid $750,000.
Holyfield dropped Cooper with a left hook to the body one minute and eighteen seconds into the first round.
Cooper hurt Holyfield with a right to the chin fifty-five seconds into the third round. A follow-up barrage sent Holyfield reeling into the ropes and the referee called it a knockdown, ruling that the ropes had kept Holyfield up. It was the first knockdown of his professional career.
Cooper was hurt early in round five from a series of punches and it appeared for a moment that he might turn his back on Holyfield.
Halfway through the fifth round, the referee stopped the action because Holyfield’s right glove was cut and had to be replaced. The fight resumed after two minutes and twenty-two seconds.
Cooper was cut over his right eye in round five and was bleeding from the mouth.
Cooper’s corner complained to the referee between the sixth and seventh rounds that Holyfield had “some kind of ointment” on his body or gloves that was getting into Cooper’s eyes and causing them to burn. However, Cooper had a lot of ointment over his right eye at the start of the sixth round and the referee told Cooper’s corner to remove some of it.
Cooper was warned by the referee in round seven for extending his left elbow.
Referee Mills Lane stopped the fight with two seconds left in the seventh round after Holyfield battered Cooper with twenty-four unanswered punches. HBO commentator Gil Clancy said, “Mills Lane did a remarkable job. He stepped in exactly when he should have stepped in.”