There can be no doubt that Henry Cooper, who dominated the boxing scene for most of his 17 year career, is one of the all time greats. He ranks alongside other boxing heroes such as Tommy Farr, Frank Bruno, Joe Bugner and Lennox Lewis and is one of the best British heavyweights of all time.
"Our 'Enery", as he was fondly known, held the British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight championship titles at the same time. He notched up 3 Lonsdale belts and created a record by holding the British heavyweight title for 10 years 5 months, defending it successfully 8 times. His left hook, nicknamed "'Enry’s 'Ammer" was reputed to land with a force of 3 tons!
In this modern equivalent to gladiatorial combat, Cooper clashed with Mohammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) twice, in 1963 in a non-title fight and in 1966 for a world title.
It was on 18 June 1963 that Henry Cooper's left hand sent the young and up-and-coming Cassius Clay flat on his back in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. Everyone thought Cooper had won. But then Clay, in a dazed state, found a "lucky" respite. His gloves, it seemed, were torn (whether accidentally or deliberately is a matter of debate!). It took some minutes for a new pair of gloves to be fetched, which gave Clay some precious recovery time. In one of the most controversial results in the history of boxing, Clay came back to win, ruthlessly attacking Cooper’s already gashed eye. Our 'Enery was forced to retire, badly hurt.
The same thing happened in the 1966 contest after 6 rounds, but those valiant battles against one of his greatest opponents were never to be forgotten.
In 1979, Cooper regained the British and Empire titles from Jack Bodell and the European crown from Jose Urtain. However, in 1971, with all 3 titles at stake and despite 15 well-fought rounds, Joe Bugner was controversially awarded the decision. This marked the end of Cooper’s outstanding boxing career, giving him a total of 40 wins, including some 27 knockouts and early finishes.
In 2000, Sir Henry was proud to add a Knighthood to his OBE of 1969. It was the first ever to be awarded to a boxer. He went on to become a very successful business man and golfer. His substantial work for Sport and for children’s charities was recognised by the Pope with the award of a KSG and by The Variety Club of Great Britain and The Outward Bound Trust with their first ever Special Award in The British Sports Awards 2001. He remains very much in the public eye, making numerous public appearances throughout the world. Sir Henry will always hold a place in the public’s heart and in the history of Wembley Stadium.