The late Sir Henry Cooper, popularly known as ‘Our ‘Enry’, was one of the most celebrated and successful British boxers since World War II. Cooper turned professional, at the age of 20, in 1954 and went on to enjoy a highly successful professional career; he never won a world title, but was British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion between 1959 and 1971 and European heavyweight champion between 1968 and 1971.
However, for all his success, Cooper is probably best remembered for his narrow, and controversial, defeat by 21-year-old Cassius Clay – soon to become Muhammad Ali – in a non-title fight at Wembely Stadium, London in June, 1963, which very nearly changed the course of boxing. Before the fight, Clay had brashly predicted, ‘It ain’t no jive, Henry Cooper will go in five!’
Nevertheless, towards the end of the fourth round, Cooper, 28, unleashed a trademark left hook – dubbed ”Enry’s ‘Ammer’ – which knocked Clay to the canvas for a count of four. When the bell sounded, Clay was sitting on the seat of his pants, back against the ropes, and had to be walked back to his stool by trainer Angelo Dundee. Dundee administered smelling salts before, apparently, discovering a split in Clay’s glove, which he brought to the attention of the referee Tommy Little.
According to Cooper, Dundee subsequently freely admitted, more than once, that he had deliberately slashed the glove to give Clay more time to recover between rounds. A replacement pair of gloves were fetched from the dressing room and, in the fifth round, a rejuvenated Clay set to work on slicing up Cooper’s already bloodied face; a heavily bleeding cut over his left eye left Cooper unable to see properly and the contest was stopped, with Clay winning by technical knockout.
Watch the Henry Cooper vs. Cassius Clay fight