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Saturday, November 23, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Opponent Straight Out Of Rocky -- Holyfield Is Huge Favorite Vs. Cooper

New York Daily News

ATLANTA - In a heavyweight title fight with the biggest odds since Buster Douglas fans cashed 42-1 bets against Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield meets the challenge of "Smokin"' Bert Cooper here tonight at the Omni.

Cooper, an unlikely substitute for an improbable replacement, can get you 22-1 at the Mirage - the only Las Vegas casino taking action on the apparent mismatch and the only Vegas casino that took bets on Tyson-Douglas.

Jimmy Vaccaro, the Mirage oddsmaker, had the same 22-1 odds against Francesco Damiani, the Italian who was the original replacement for the Nov. 8 superfight with Mike Tyson.

"An opponent is an opponent," Vaccaro explained.

When Damiani decided last week that an injury to his ankle wouldn't let him do his best, promoter Dan Duva culled an opponent straight from the Rocky Balboa out-takes.

It begins at 7:10 PST (HBO) with a 1984 Olympic rematch between Lennox Lewis, 1988 gold medalist and undefeated as a pro, against Tyrell Biggs, '84 Olympic champion who has told friends he's here just for the $75,000 payday.

It is almost impossible to make a case for Cooper, except to say that as a bigger puncher, he is more dangerous than Damiani. The 25-year-old challenger is entering a title fight with a reputation for quitting and for not always being in the best of shape.

"That's why," said George Benton, the professor who trains Holyfield, "you've got to hit him in the body."

Cooper hasn't sparred for almost two weeks for his sudden windfall, estimated at between $300,000 and $400,000. His trainer, Whit Lowery, said, "We didn't want him to leave his fight in the gym."

Lowery said Cooper had sparred "six days a week for four weeks" with Ray Mercer, who stopped Tommy Morrison on an Oct. 18 card in which Cooper stopped Joe Hipp of Federal Way by TKO in the fifth round.

Cooper's conditioning is so suspect that he must be 22-1 just to get around the huge ring a couple of times. The Holyfield-favoring ring is listed at 24 feet but could offer frequent-flyer miles.

. TALE OF THE TAPE. . -- How champion Evander Holyfield and challenger Bert Cooper shape up for tonight's WBA-IBF heavyweight title fight at The Omni in Atlanta:. .

Holyfield Cooper. . Age 29 25. . Weig ht 210 215. . Height 6-2 1/2 5-11. . Reach 77 1/2 74. . Chest # 43 42. . Chest # # 45 44. . Biceps 16 18. . Forearm 12 1/2 13. . Waist 32 32. . Thigh 22 24. . Calf 13 14. . Neck 19 1/2 19. . Wrist 7 1/2 9. . Fist 12 1/2 13. .

# normal. # # expanded..

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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