Travis Kauffman Looks to Smoke Bert Cooper on the Road Back
By Neil Dennis: Next week, one-time blue chip prospect Travis Kauffman takes the next step to gaining back the respect and recognition he once had. Sadly, like a lot of fighters in this age where undefeated means everything, Kauffman had the promise of greatness pulled out from under him once the zero was taken from his loss column. People forget that these usually hard-working fighters struggle to survive while pursuing their dreams in the ring. For Kauffman, that has meant raising his four children in a rough Reading, Pennsylvania neighborhood where crime and violence are commonplace. But he continues on in the hope of providing his three sons and one daughter the better life they deserve.
Article posted on 14.08.2011
“I don’t have good income or health insurance,” Kauffman says reflectively. “My dad pays for my health insurance right now because I don’t make enough money boxing for health insurance for me and my kids. My kids are on their mom’s health insurance. It’s a tough way to make a living. It’s unfortunate that there’s no retirement pension, which I think they need one [in boxing]. So, my goal’s just to get back on the map and make something of this.”
The map Travis Kauffman is travelling currently has him headed to the Virginia Beach Fieldhouse August 20 for a DeeLee Promotions card dubbed “Beach Brawl II”, fighting 45-year old “Smokin’” Bert Cooper. Best known for swelling Joe “The Boss” Hipp’s eyes shut and going toe-to-toe with former champ Michael Moorer, Cooper’s best days are admittedly two decades back. However, Kauffman does not dismiss him as he realizes he must take on the Bert Coopers of the world to finally rise from the ashes while he is still young.
“I don’t care who you are, the last thing to go in a fighter is his power, and Bert Cooper has power,” says Kauffman. “My goal’s to get back on the map. I’m going to be twenty-six in a week, week and a half. [Vitali] Klitschko’s 40, or about to turn 40. Wladimir is like what, 36? David Haye’s in his 30s. You know, once the Klitschkos are gone, the division will open up so much.”
As many boxing fans know, Travis Kauffman was dismissed by many after the tumultuous loss on Showtime nearly two years ago to Tony ‘TNT’ Grano. It was a fight that saw lots of action, though lots of controversy in its fourth and final round. It was a round that saw Grano use a low blow, a mouthpiece spit out, and finally a pro wrestling-style clothesline move to throw off and knock out the fighter known as the “GW Hope”. And despite the controversy, it was one of the most talked about heavyweight fights of 2009, and a fight that Showtime regularly reruns on its “Showtime Extreme” channel. It is the fight everyone asks Kauffman about, and it something to this day he doesn’t hesitate to talk about.
“I don’t make excuses. Tony Grano outsmarted me by low blowing me and the dirty tactics he did,” Kauffman explains. “I go into the fight and I think I’m beating Grano clearly all four rounds. I’m beating him; I hurt him a couple of times. I hurt him real bad in the fourth round with a right hand. I go in close to finish him off and he low blows me. It was an intentional low blow and the referee never warned him or nothing. The referee comes up to me and asks if I’m okay. I say yeah, not thinking to take this time to recover. After he hit me with the low blow, I got mad. I start fighting with my heart instead of my head. I try to load up even more and I’m cracking him. He walks away and spits his mouthpiece out. The ref gave him a warning, but he got some time to recover because he walks to the wrong corner. At this point, I realize I’m gassed…I messed up fighting with anger. Tony Grano got me where he wanted me. He wanted me to get mad and fight his fight and that’s exactly what I did.”
Sadly, the Grano fight was the beginning of a storm that truly derailed Kauffman’s career. Taken under the wing of advisor Al Haymon, Kauffman was blindsided by Haymon’s sudden dropping of him post-Grano.
“After the fight, I took off for so long because I was so depressed that Al Haymon left me after that. You don’t leave somebody because of one loss, because one loss can often make you better. Before that fight, Haymon told me that you’re coming out party is going to be on HBO. You’re going to get $100,000. Even though I was focused on Tony Grano, I was thinking of my kids. We live in the inner city and I’m taking my kids out to look at houses in the suburbs. They picked out a house. I was set on this house. I was going to put money down, and I was finally going to get my kids out of the city. Where I live, there’s a bunch of shootings and I hate it. So, now I’ve promised my kids something I can’t even give them. I hated boxing.”
Some kind words from fans that saw the loss as nothing more than a fluke spurred Kauffman back to the ring, but it would not be long before his faith in the sport was tested again. Just as he is starting to pull himself back together with a KO win over sturdy opponent Chris Koval, he signed with The Empire Sports and Entertainment. He would only fight once (against a very out-of-shape Ross Thompson) over a fourteen month period. Understandably, Kauffman became dejected and resented the sport which has been the only career he’s ever known.
“First, Al Haymon, then The Empire. I was thinking, ‘Man, maybe people really don’t believe in me no more.’ Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough that my dad’s been a real inspiration to me. “
Languishing, Kauffman seemed a shadow of the once a top-rated amateur who was best remembered as the teenager who fought hard and competitive in the Golden Gloves against Travis Walker. Somewhat exposed for his limitations in the pros, Walker was once feared as the guy knocking out everything in headgear inside the three round distance. It is a fight that Kauffman to this day remembers fondly as it stands as a testament to why he stays with the sweet science.
“I was fighting Travis Walker, who was 24 when I was seventeen. He knocked out everyone else in this tournament except me. In the first round, I get cracked with this uppercut. I was like, ‘Wow, this kid can hit!’ I’ve never been hit as hard in my career as I was then to this day. For the first round, I’m just trying to get away. The second round, I go out and hurt him real bad. The third round was a war…but it was a close fight and afterwards Travis Walker was like, ‘I never fought a kid as tough as you in my life!’ Regardless of losing to him, I was happy for the accomplishment.”
Of course, at the time, Kauffman’s mind wasn’t so much about future stardom or impressing knockout artists. His motives were more in tune with those of a teenager.
“Before the tournament ever happened, my dad was like, ‘If you win this tournament, I’ll buy you this Hummer.’ It was 2003, I was seventeen, and it was my first open class tournament. So, when I told him about the concussion [I suffered earlier in the tournament], he was like, ‘Do you want me to pull you out of the fight?’ And I was like, ‘Heck, no! I’m getting this Hummer! I’m fighting for this darn Hummer!’”
Walker is certainly on a short list of fighters Kauffman would like to get into the ring once he gets past Cooper. Of course, Cooper didn’t have to be Kauffman’s next fight. Golden Boy Promotions had offered Kauffman’s father/trainer/manager Marshall Kauffman $55,000 to take a fight with Seth Mitchell on the August 27 HBO co-feature after Chazz Witherspoon bowed out.
“We were willing to take it because the reward was greater than the risk,” says Marshall. “We accepted the fight on their terms, and then they turned around and changed their mind. They wanted to go a different route and go with Mike Mollo instead of us. I think it had to do with the fact we accepted the fight so quick.”
Most indicators would say Kauffman will knock Cooper out, but as Kauffman says, Cooper still has power in his punches. Regardless, Kauffman promises one thing to his fans: that he will go in giving his all and never make for dull fight ever.
“You’re in there to take chances,” Kauffman says. “If you go in there and get knocked out, so what? At least you tried, so the hell what, you went in there trying. I think too many [fighters] are afraid to say they ever got knocked out. Go take chances and get in the ring. Look at Haye, his defense was amazing, but his offense was so shitty that night [against Wladimir Klitschko]. He wasn’t doing nothing. When he did something, he hit Klitschko. He was fighting scared. You’re in the wrong division to be fighting scared, not taking chances… I definitely plan on putting on a good show and show everyone what Travis Kauffman is made of.”
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