|Real name||Jean-Pierre Coopman|
|Nickname(s)||Lion of Flanders|
|Height||5 ft 11.5 in (1.82 m)|
11 July 1946 |
Ingelmunster, West Flanders, Belgium
|Wins by KO||20|
Jean-Pierre Coopman was born on 11 July 1946, in the Flemish (northern Belgium) community of Ingelmunster. Early in life, he showed a gift for artistry. He was instructed in sculpting by his stepfather, and Coopman's first fully paid job was as a stone cutter. The stone-cutting he learned from childhood was more specifically that of an artisan. His skills were put to use, among other things, in reparations of the medieval churches of Belgium--most notably, Saint Nicholas' Church in Ghent. By having to perform a kind of historic preservation, using and applying tools from this ancient period, Coopman developed great strength in his arms and hands.
In young adulthood, he appears to have been a lover of night-life, but after sparring several times with Gilbert Montagne, a noted Belgian middleweight, Coopman was urged to pursue a ring career, or at least to try. By his own words, once the decision was made, Coopman at least gave up smoking, and cold turkey at that.
Though best known in fight circles as an opponent of Muhammad Ali's, Coopman had been fighting for a half decade, before being granted his title shot at "The Greatest". He began in the amateur ranks, rising quickly enough to compete in the 1971 European Championships, where he was knocked out by a far more experienced (315 fights) Soviet fighter. He turned professional, in 1972.
Coopman fought his early bouts primarily in Belgium, though he is recorded as having lost an early match versus Harald Skog, in Oslo, Norway. Another, more tenuous connection to Ali, is Coopman's loss (via decision) to Rudi Lubbers of The Netherlands, in 1973. Coopman's earlier record, as well shows a disqualification victory over Terry Daniels, who had also received a title shot during his own career, versus Smokin' Joe Frazier, in January 1972. Despite mixed fortunes, Coopman proved popular with his fellow Belgians, and by 1975, was able to pursue boxing as a full-time career; the company which employed him to sculpt, now paid him to fight, instead.
It has often been said of Coopman, that he was one of the least deserving fighters to fight for the heavyweight title. His fight with Ali was regarded as a glorified sparring session. Ali had recently had his third fight with Joe Frazier, the "Thrilla in Manilla", a match Ali later called, "the closest thing to Death." Understandably, the champion wanted an "easy" opponent. The match was made almost by happenstance, as the promotion fell to George Kanter, a Belgian by birth. Kanter, after surveying the European scene, contacted Charles de Jager, Coopman's manager, and shortly on, the match was made. Coopman, unknown outside Belgium, was overwhelmed by the sudden notoriety. Ali, he has always admitted, was a personal hero; from the beginning, he was grateful for the opportunity.
Coopman was dubbed "The Lion of Flanders" by the Western press, but he never called himself that, nor had ever used the moniker. The sobriquet, was thought to be apropos in light of Coopman's birthday (11 July is a national holiday in Flanders, marking a military victory over the French, in 1302). The challenger looked bad enough in sparring sessions, his training was quickly closed to the press.
The fight took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 20 February 1976; the fight was not in any way broadcast by Belgian media as Coopman's native land was the first nation to ban boxing broadcasts. In those days long before Pay-Per-View, CBS Sports broadcast the bout to the USA for free, prime time. The bout itself, little more than a day in the gym for Ali, ended in Round Five. Though stopped, Coopman has always felt it a point of pride, that he emerged relatively unhurt and unmarked.
After the Muhammad Ali fight, Coopman became European champion after beating the Basque, Jose Urtain. Two months later, in Antwerp, he lost the title to Lucien Rodriguez of France. He retired in 1980. His last official fight was against Cookie Wallace.
As of 2007 Coopman was painting oil paintings of famous boxers. He had, long before that time, painted a portrait of Ali, taken by way of visual reference, from a celebrated photo by Neil Leifer. He was also awarded the contract to sculpt a statue of Cyril Delannoit, a Belgian fighter acclaimed in his day, for having defeated Marcel Cerdan (1948; Brussels).
Coopman is the subject of "Lion", a tongue-in-cheek tribute by songwriter Freddy Blohm.
Professional boxing record
|36 Wins (20 knockouts, 13 decisions, 3 DQ), 16 Losses (6 knockouts, 9 decisions, 1 DQ), 2 Draws |
|Draw||25-4||Freddy De Kerpel||MD||6||05/04/1999||Ghent, East Flanders||57-57, 58-58, 57-58.|
|Loss||8-1-1||Dragomir Milo Popovic||TKO||5||16/05/1981||Liege|
|Win||13-2||Vincenzo Pesapane||TKO||3||03/04/1981||Piacenza, Emilia Romagna|
|Loss||9-6-1||Pierre Babo Kabassu||PTS||8||25/12/1980||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||26-7||Rudi Lubbers||TKO||5||29/09/1980||Energiehal, Rotterdam|
|Loss||26-1-2||Albert Syben||PTS||10||27/06/1980||Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Brussels|
|Loss||10-7||Winston Allen||KO||1||01/05/1980||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||8-4||Denton Ruddock||PTS||10||02/02/1980||Turnhout, Antwerp|
|Loss||96-18-13||Avenamar Peralta||PTS||10||25/12/1979||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||12-1-3||George Butzbach||PTS||10||01/11/1979||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||10-0-2||Rudy Gauwe||PTS||12||30/09/1978||Turnhout, Antwerp||Belgium Heavyweight Title.|
|Win||9-1||Scotty Welsh||DQ||1||02/09/1978||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||37-9||Mario Baruzzi||TKO||6||22/04/1978||La Louviere, Hainaut|
|Win||33-13-2||Santiago Alberto Lovell||TKO||3||11/02/1978||Liege|
|Loss||17-2-1||Alfredo Evangelista||KO||1||26/11/1977||Brussels||EBU Heavyweight Title.|
|Draw||18-9-2||Tony Moore||PTS||10||01/11/1977||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||12-9||Kurt Luedecke||PTS||10||09/09/1977||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||14-4||Lucien Rodriguez||UD||15||07/05/1977||Antwerp||EBU Heavyweight Title. 139-150, 139-150, 142-150.|
|Win||56-10-4||Jose Manuel Urtain||KO||4||12/03/1977||Sportpaleis, Antwerp||EBU Heavyweight Title.|
|Win||13-6-1||Neville Meade||PTS||10||25/12/1976||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||10-4-3||George Jerome||KO||4||01/11/1976||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||7-4||Hennie Thoonen||DQ||5||31/05/1976||Sportpaleis Ahoy, Rotterdam|
|Win||18-7-1||Ba Sounkalo||PTS||10||07/05/1976||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||49-2||Muhammad Ali||KO||5||20/02/1976||Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Hato Rey||WBC/WBA World Heavyweight Titles. Coopman knocked out at 2:46 of the fifth round.|
|Win||2-1||Lisimo Obutobe||TKO||7||01/11/1975||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||12-3||Karsten Honhold||TKO||6||12/04/1975||Menen, West Flanders|
|Win||28-8-2||Jan Lubbers||PTS||10||14/03/1975||Bruges, West Flanders|
|Win||19-12-4||Adriano Rosati||TKO||5||21/02/1975||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||13-13||Charley Green||KO||8||17/01/1975||Ghent, East Flanders|
|Win||13-24-5||Vasco Faustino||PTS||10||25/12/1974||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||16-0-1||Bernd August||PTS||10||22/11/1974||Ghent, East Flanders|
|Win||6-2-3||Lino Finotti||KO||4||01/11/1974||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||22-16-3||Rocky Campbell||KO||6||27/09/1974||Turnhout, Antwerp|
|Loss||21-2||Rudi Lubbers||PTS||10||27/04/1974||Ghent, East Flanders|
|Win||3-15-1||Ferenc Kristofcsak||DQ||3||22/02/1974||Roulers, West Flanders|
|Win||6-21-1||Ireno Werleman||KO||1||25/01/1974||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||0-1||Jean Belval||PTS||6||23/12/1973||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||5-4||Horst Lang||KO||3||16/11/1973||Ghent, East Flanders|
|Win||1-4||Erwin Josefa||KO||3||01/11/1973||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||1-6-1||Juan Rodriguez||TKO||3||08/09/1973||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Loss||5-17-1||Ireno Werleman||KO||2||18/05/1973||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||35-21-7||Ray Philippe||KO||5||05/05/1973||Ghent, East Flanders|
|Win||9-13-4||Ermanno Festorazzi||PTS||6||16/03/1973||Ingelmunster, West Flanders|
|Win||3-3||Gino Martinis||PTS||6||16/02/1973||Ingelmunster, West Flanders|
|Loss||1-0||Harald Skog||PTS||6||25/01/1973||Messehallen, Oslo|
|Win||5-2-1||Kilani Ramdani||PTS||6||25/12/1972||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||1-7-2||Antonio Rimasti||KO||4||08/12/1972||Tournai, Hainaut|
|Win||0-5||Siegfried Ackers||TKO||2||01/11/1972||Izegem, West Flanders|
|Win||5-8||Norbert Suehrig||TKO||3||29/09/1972||Menen, West Flanders|