Parker was only 39 years old when he died. By that time his old friend Bert Cooper was already hitting the skids hard. Over the next 20 years, Cooper fell out of contention and became nothing more than a palooka, but he also lived a life like a loaded gun. Drugs, prison, religious awakening, and all the madness boxing could offer, which included a slot on one of the first professional boxing cards to take place on mainland China, a KO victory over a bare-knuckle brawler making his pro debut, an early loss in a bizarre one-night heavyweight tournament in Mississippi, and a first-round demolition job of undefeated fugazi Richie Melito. Before that fight, representatives from the New York State Athletic Commission had visited Cooper in the dressing room to encourage Cooper to perform his best despite rumors of skullduggery surrounding the fight. Cooper obliged. As recently as 2012 Cooper was toiling under the hot lights in boxing hinterlands such as Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Jefferson City, Missouri; and Hammond, Indiana.

 
 

Years after his unlikely role as überspoiler, Cooper recalled his downward spiral. “I burnt bridges. I spent most of my money, not so much on drugs and alcohol, but just on parties,” he said. People I thought were my friends weren’t my friends. I gave them money for cars and things like that and when I needed them, they were gone—zoom—just like that.” Gone in the same way, perhaps, that The Windfall Factor disappeared from the tumultuous lives of two men forever on the edge: zoom, just like that, yes, just like that. ♦

 

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