Farewell to a Great British Boxing Champion
It was sad to read the passing of one of Great Britain‘s all time favourite sportsmen, Sir Henry Cooper, today. Henry was British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight boxing champion form the late 1950′s to the early 70′s. He was famously the first fighter to knock down Muhammad Ali, who was still called Cassius Clay at the time.
Cooper and Clay fought in 1963 when, the now Ali, was 21 years old. Cooper knocked him down in the fourth round and Clay was saved from being counted out by the bell. He was so groggy in the corner that his coach, Angelo Dundee, cut his glove and gave him extra recuperation time while the glove was replaced. Clay came back to win the non-title fight, when Cooper had to retire because of face cuts. It was face cuts that sort of plagued his career. He also lost the rematch with Muhammad Ali when they fought again three years later. Cooper won 40 of his 55 professional fights, 27 of them by knock out, his left hook was a much feared weapon.
Sir Henry Cooper’s boxing career ended in 1971. His last fight was against a young up and coming Joe Bugner, a former Hungarian refugee. They fought a fairly even contest for 15 rounds and Cooper was expected to get the decision, but it was awarded to Bugner and the British public never really forgave him for spoiling the end of “Our ‘Enry“‘s career. Although Bugner went on to hold the British, European and Commonwealth titles himself and fought all of the major heavyweights of the 1970′s, including Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, he never achieved Cooper‘s level of popularity with the British public. Bugner emigrated to Australia in 1986 to become “Aussie Joe“.
Henry Cooper went on to become an extremely popular TV personality, after his boxing career ended. He commentated on boxing, appeared on numerous chat and panel shows and regularly appeared as a guest on comedy and variety shows. Impressionists had a field day imitating his “He’s a nice boy, yeah, yeah. He’s got a good right ‘and” from his boxing commentary and “Splash it all over” from his Brut 33 commercial campaign.
Muhammad Ali was said to be “at a loss for words” over the death of his friend and tributes have flowed in from numerous boxing and television personalities. Rest in peace Henry, you will never be replaced in the hearts of the British public.
By Max Power