Zachary Cooper just became a Golden Boy. The welterweight fighter signed with Oscar De La Hoya’s promotion team last week. It was certainly a banner day for the young boxer. Getting there was not easy, though.
Zach learned boxing from his grandpa, a former pro himself. He taught Zach how to move, throw a jab, set up his punches. The fight game was in Zach’s blood at an early age and he showed natural ability almost from the outset. However, growing up in Seattle, there simply weren’t as many opportunities to hone his craft. The boxing scene in the city of rain is modest, and the number of available fighters so small that as Zach told me, “you end up fighting your friends.”
After blasting his way through just ten amateur fights, Zach decided to go pro. Eventually, he found himself in the Mayweather gym, training with Floyd’s uncle, Jeff. While working in the “Money” gym certainly had its benefits, it did not lead to Zach getting fights easily. While Zach was effectively in their camp, they were not promoting him, leading Zach to hustle to find his own ring opportunities.
Zach fought three 4 round fights in 2013 and just once all last year. He took the first two by KO, but suffered two disputed draws in his last two fights. The second draw was so laughable that his opponent’s corner was surprised by the scoring. Zach isn’t making excuses though. As he put it, “It’s my fault. I should have knocked them out.”
Cooper admits seeking a career in boxing has been a challenge. He knows it would have been easier to get a 9-5 and perhaps settle down and start a family. Boxing is Zach’s calling though: “When you want something as bad as you want to breathe, you will do anything.”
Zach was soldiering on looking at setting up a local fight event in Vegas when he got the call from his manager that Golden Boy was interested in him, calling him a “talent waiting to be scooped up.”
So what kind of fighter is Zachary Cooper? I asked Zach about his style, but he defied easy categorization. As he said, “You never heard of Muhammad Ali wanting to be somebody else.” While Zach has a great appreciation for offensive fighters, he also believes in the benefits of defense. According to Zach, “with good offense you are formidable, with a great defense you are indestructible.”
His philosophy is “you have to fight like a cop on patrol lives his life. It only takes one shot.” He challenged the perception that “defense is boring.” He points out that Floyd Mayweather is the biggest draw in the world of boxing and guys like Timothy Bradley have made their share of quality, attractive fights.
At the same time, he believes in going for the knockout too. He’s not big on leaving things in the hands of judges, which is of course a more than reasonable viewpoint if you’ve been awake and watching the average quality of scoring by those officials at ringside for the last forever and a day. “I’m coming to kill anything that gets in my way,” he said.
It should be mentioned that Zachary Cooper does not lack for confidence. He speaks like a man on a mission and is all business–eating and sleeping boxing on a daily basis.
He’s not afraid of courting controversy either. While Jeff Mayweather is in his corner and may be the least colorful member of that family, his choice for his strength and conditioning adviser will certainly raise eyebrows. You may remember Victor Conte from the BALCO/steroids in baseball scandal. A sizable number of major league baseball players, including, most famously, Barry Bonds have been connected to the San Francisco area business and steroid distribution center. I asked Zach if he was worried about the connection to such an infamous figure. He said, “I know it’s coming. When I start knocking people out, people are going to claim I’m juicing.”
He continued, “My response is you can test me anytime, anywhere. You can come to my home. I am clean.”
Zachary Cooper is not afraid of criticism. Take a look at this Twitter page, the amusingly titled @IHATEZACHCOOPER (Note the ALL CAPS). It’s like a pre-emptive strike. “Bring it”, it seems to say. And that is Zachary Cooper. He wants whomever would like a piece of him to come at him hard. He doesn’t believe they can handle what will come back. Whether it’s in the ring or on social media.
At 29, and with only four pro fights and ten amateur fights behind him, Zach is more than eager to get going. He believes that “God made (him) wait” for this moment. While he may be a little older for a fighter set to take off, he pointed out that he does not have many miles on him and thanks to a more focused diet (no fast food at all) and conditioning process, he feels better than he did at 22. In fact, he feels so good that he may actually move down in weight from 147 to 140.
While Zach does not have a fight lined up just yet, he’s training like he’s going into the ring next week, so he will be ready whenever that call is made. He hopes to fight at least six times in the next year, moving from four rounders to six rounders at first.
Zachary Cooper does not believe he’s good. He knows he’s great. He has the type of personality that is likely to translate well with fight fans. Oh, there will be lovers and haters, but there won’t be ambivalence. If his ring performance matches his level of confidence, he will be one to watch.
I for one am not betting against him.
Photo credit : Chris Robinson
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