Sir Henry Cooper dies aged 76

Boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper, who famously knocked down a young Cassius Clay during a fight in 1963, has died. The former heavyweight champion, one of the sport’s best known personalities, died aged 76, two days short of his 77th birthday, at his son’s home in Oxted, Surrey.

Born in London, the renowned left-hander twice won BBC Sports Personality of the Year, in 1967 and 1970, and in his career beat some of the world’s most famous boxers.

Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper

Considered to be among Britain’s best post-war fighters, he became the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion in 1967. He remains the only British boxer to win the three Lonsdale belts outright. He was knighted in 2000.

Current WBA world heavyweight champion, David Haye commented:

“One of Britain’s greatest sports man Sir Henry Cooper passed away today. A true warrior and great human being. Rest in Peace.”

Sir Henry Cooper - one of Britain's most loved boxers of all time

During the 1963 fight with Clay, who later changed his name to Mohammed Ali, Cooper knocked his opponent to the canvas in the fourth round of their fight with his trademark left-hook, dubbed “Enry’s ‘Ammer”.

Cooper floors Cassius Clay, 1963

But the non-title bout at Wembley Stadium became mired in controversy as Clay was given time to recover when his trainer claimed he needed to replace his gloves.

The fight was stopped in the following round because Cooper was bleeding around the eyes, meaning Clay was victorious.

Boxing promoter, Frank Warren spoke passionately about the much-loved boxer:

He transcended boxing, he was a true gentleman of sport and had a huge place in the public’s affection. He never won the world title but he had true British grit, he tried.

He [twice] fought Cassius Clay, who was this brash young kid coming over, and he put him on his backside and went into British sporting folklore. His weakness was that he cut very easily and he got cut in both those fights.

He wasn’t an extrovert like a lot of fighters in this day and age, saying what they’re going to do – he was unassuming and in his time he was a superstar, he became a bit of an icon. For generations of people who’d never seen him fight, a legend built up and the public took him to their heart because he was such a gentleman.”
The pair met again in 1966, by which time Clay was world heavyweight champion, and Cooper was defeated again.

Cooper vs Muhammad Ali, 1966

Barry McGuigan, the former world featherweight champion said after hearing news of Cooper’s death:

“It’s tragic news for the world of boxing. The great Henry Cooper, and what a great man he was. He was the first boxer to be knighted and to my mind that’s the greatest compliment of all. I have absolutely no doubt had he been around in this day and age he would have been the world cruiserweight champion for a very long time.”

The world title evaded Cooper during a career that spanned 55 fights. He retired in 1971 after losing to Joe Bugner.

Cooper vs Joe Bugner, 1971