Who is Dewey Cooper?
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Dewey Cooper is the unknown factor heading into the showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday. We’ve seen what Pacquiao and Freddie Roach can do. We’ve even seen Jessie Vargas with a host of trainers ranging from Roger Mayweather to Roy Jones Jr. But this union between Vargas and the relatively unknown 41-year-old trainer has a ton of intrigue. So, who is Cooper?
“I’m not new to this boxing thing,” Cooper told RingTV.com in the days leading up to the biggest moment of his career as a trainer when his fighter, the WBO welterweight titleholder, steps into the ring with the living legend from the Philippines. “I’ve been fighting for 32 years of my life. You guys view me as new to this but Jessie knows I’ve been in the gym as long as he has, for almost 20 years.”
When you consider that the concept of Vargas being a lightly regarded power puncher was turned on it’s head when Vargas destroyed Sadam Ali with a ninth-round TKO in his first fight with Cooper in his corner, it appears there is certainly something to this union.
Those who are well versed in combat sports know about Cooper. “The Black Cobra” has competed and found success as a professional boxer, kickboxer and mixed martial artist over the course of his combat sports career. Prior to that, Cooper was “a failed football player” who was a wide receiver at UNLV. But he took upon the martial arts initially as a way to defend himself against potential threats. But now what he took up as a secondary hobby has become his primary love.
“I failed in my first dream,” Cooper bellowed in his deep and grainy voice. His size, dreadlocks and lip piercing help him standout in a crowd, but he’s got a personality that holds the interest of whoever he converses with. He speaks with the utmost confidence and is as magnetic as they come. “I did well in kickboxing but failed at my first dream of being a football player. I hate talking about it. It’s the only thing I failed at in my life. But Jessie has never failed in his life.”
And, as you can also see, no matter what Cooper is talking about, it all comes back to Vargas.
The interesting thing is that Vargas and Cooper have known each other for nearly 20 years. Yet, the idea for Cooper to train Vargas didn’t become a reality until just over a year ago.
“I’ve known Dewey for years and I knew his entire background,” Vargas says. “I’ve bumped into him and I admired the job he did with other fighters. He brought some of the guys I was sparring with in 2009 and these guys were tough. He gave them proper instruction and I realized how good he was. He knows what he was doing. I didn’t even think of him as a trainer, I admired his work.”
With boxing legends unable to harness Vargas’ potential and catapult him into the upper hierarchy of boxing’s elite, Vargas had to think outside of the box. And although Cooper isn’t a rookie trainer (he trained three-time WIBA and two-time WBC lightweight champion Jessica Rakoczy), perhaps it was that Cooper dabbled in all mixed martial arts that caused him to shy away. But after suffering his first loss to Timothy Bradley, Vargas realized that he needed to look in the direction of someone who has known him for years.
“I needed a different trainer that knew and understood me and the only name that came up was Dewey,” said Vargas, who was trained by future hall of famer Erik Morales for the Bradley bout. “He knows me better than any other trainer. He knows exactly what I can do and if anything needs to be changed, I can rely on him.”
Cooper is unsure exactly why Vargas was unable to click with other trainers, but he is confident in the chemistry they have.
“If the line between a fighter and coach isn’t there, there could be problems,” Cooper says. “I’m not sure why it didn’t work with other trainers but he’s the type of fighter who needs people to be supportive and not so critical. We’ve known each other since he was a little kid. I think he appreciates my level of expertise.”
That chemistry led to Vargas throttling Ali in March in a display of punching power that the world had yet to see. Cooper smiles when talking about that fight because he can take credit for helping Vargas realize his potential.
“I knew Jessie had power way back then,” Cooper says of back before he trained Vargas when he watched his future student spar. “We tweaked a few technical things he was doing wrong when he threw a punch but it was all on him.”
This fight against Pacquiao is one that many don’t think Vargas has a snowballs chance in hell of winning. But the Cooper praises his student’s athletic ability to being on par with the 37-year-old Pacquiao. But more than athletic ability, Cooper says that Vargas possesses three things that will lead his fighter to victory.
“People try to fight Manny Pacquiao as a boxer but he isn’t a boxer,” Cooper says while citing that Pacquiao’s footwork is that of a basketball player rather than a conventional boxer. “The way you beat that speed is with intelligence, sharp eyes and quick reactions.”
When RingTV asked if the four fights with Marquez are an indicator of how to beat Pacquaio, Cooper slowly nods.
“Timing,” he continues. “That’s the key.”
But as much as technique is a big deal, Cooper believes that the hunger and desire of his young fighter will be the difference maker on Nov. 5. Couple that with Pacquiao’s newfound responsibilities as a nearly 38-year-old Senator and Cooper says that the perfect storm is coming to end the career of Manny Pacquiao.
“Jessie has it in his soul to do it. Manny has it in his mind. I keep trying to tell guys, there’s a big [expletive] difference between something that’s in your head and being willing to die for it, man. Big difference.”
Cooper constantly sends the reminder that Vargas is the champion and Pacquiao is coming for his title. But the reality is that Vargas is looking to take what Pacquiao has: superstardom. And although Cooper waves off any notion that he could become a star along with his fighter, he says under no uncertain terms that Vargas deserves the acclaim, respect and notoriety is has sought after.
“There is no way he’s training harder than us and there’s no way he deserves this more than us. This is our life,” Cooper says. “I can care less about monetary gain or fame. I care about winning and leading my fighter to victory. That’s it.”