Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sir Henry Cooper - 1934-2011

I used to enjoy a bit of boxing as a teenager, but farm life didn't allow me enough time. Ernie Ray was my coach, though I never fought in an official bout. I was on the card to fight at Denbigh, but a ferocious nose bleed the night before persuaded Ernie that I should not fight without my nose being 'cauterised' - whatever that meant. Anyway, this is just a preamble to a post about Sir Henry Cooper, who died today. The sporting heroes of my early teens were boxers. There were some great Welshmen - Howard Winstone and Dai Dower being two of the best. But we all loved 'Enry. It wasn't just his boxing. He was a thoroughly good all round 'gent'. And hugely popular.

As a fighter he was not the greatest. Bit small for a heavy, and not quite good enough at the very top level. Mind you, he almost the best of them all - the magnificent Cassius Clay, later to be known as Mohammed Ali. I loved him as well, and watched his fights over and over again. When 'Enry fought Clay in 1963, the great man was too cocky, and was caught by 'Enry's 'Ammer close to the end of the fourth round. Many of us thought he'd never have survived if it had been at the beginning of the round. Cooper was a good 'finisher'. Clay's corner managed to delay things a bit, and he came out in the 5th and smashed 'Enry all over the place. The fight was stopped with a cut eye, a weakness that dogged Cooper's career. I remember enjoying all those fights between Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine, Brian London and Dick Richardson - all world class British heavies. Through it all, Sir Henry won three Lonsdale belts. Don't think anyone else managed that - not before all these Micky Mouse titles came along anyway.

He was so much more than just a boxer. I remember him as a captain on Question of Sport - with Cliff Morgan I think, though my memory could be playing tricks. I feel a bit sad that Sir Henry Cooper has died. The thing was, we all felt we knew him.


Rhet said...

Good post. Sorry about your bleedin nose. Some guys bled there. I was lucky.

As for our 'Enry his left hook was just the perfect punch . I was fortunate enough to meet him a few times and managed to get a compliment from him . Must be about 12 year ago he thought my jab was good.
I chuckled I would be moving to my right (as a southpaw) all the time to throw the jab and cross and keep away from his left hook. He chuckled back .
He had some good victories. Defeating Zora folley who was pretty handy.
If he was a modern fighter and due to his susceptibility to cut over the left eye, he may have had some cosmetic surgery there to thicken or loosen the skin.
Henry Cooper RIP

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm correct so please do take this comment in the spirit it is intended, but, when Cassius Clay was asked how he felt after being floored by Henry Cooper his reply was " the pain of the punch,was so bad his ancestors felt it all the way back to Africa"